Archive for the 'Juvenile Justice' Category


Imagine what it is like for a juvenile in lock-up and then imagine how you can help! Featuring “Real to Me” by Nicole Nordaman and a devotion by Shane Vander Hart our Director of Ministries & Volunteer Developement.

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Restorative Justice – Turning Hope Into Action

By Bernie Van Roekel

I am privileged to have the opportunity to participate in a youth justice planning committee that is coordinating a “Restorative Justice” special event in Central Iowa.  The concept of Restorative Justice (RJ) emphasizes restoring the harm caused by criminal behavior and involves all stakeholders in the crime.  There are numerous illustrations where RJ has transformed the lives of people involved with the RJ process.  Howard Zehr, recognized as the “Grandfather of Restorative Justice,” will be the keynote speaker at this Restorative Justice Conference.  Applications of the RJ concepts in schools, community, and correctional/criminal justice settings will be addressed at this conference.  I encourage anyone who is interested in youth and/or the concept of Restorative Justice to seriously consider participating in this opportunity.

This workshop, Restorative Justice: Turning Hope Into Action be held on Friday, March 7, 2008 at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines, IA.  Learn more about this excellent training opportuning – to download the workshop flyer just click the link below.

Restorative Justice: Turning Hope Into Action Flyer


Bernie Van Roekel is the Executive Director for Serve Our Youth Network.  He joined SOY’s staff in 2005, and has worked with young people as a teacher, coach and school administrator for over 34 years.

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Juveniles and Justice

By Shane Vander Hart 

I normally don’t read Philippine news, but I have google news alerts for “juvenile justice” e-mailed to me and it is interesting what ends up in my inbox. An article, “What youth offenders need” in Tuesday’s Manila Standard Today caught my eye as an example of how not to fix an ailing juvenile justice system.

The Philippines have had a horrible track record when it comes how youth have been treated in their criminal justice system. They had been placed in over-crowded jails along with adults. My position (one I share with the author of this article, Rita Linda V. Jimeno) is that juvenile offenders should not be placed in detention alongside of adults, ever. Why? There are four reasons why I hold this position:(Read the rest of this post.)

Video: Juvenile Justice Dedication – Update – 5:09pm

I found this video on YouTube. Very powerful.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,'” (Matthew 25:35-40, NIV emphasis mine).

Update: Sharing this video is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the organization who filmed it.

Treating juveniles as juveniles

By Shane Vander Hart 

Sitting eating lunch after a couple of meetings at our SOY West office (Panera Bread on Westown Pkwy in West Des Moines), I just read an interesting article in the Boston Globe making the case against mandatory adult charges for juveniles accused of witness intimidation.

In fact, the research finds that juveniles who went through the adult system were more likely to go back into the system after their release than their counterparts who remained in juvenile jurisdiction. This may well be due to labeling these youth as serious criminals or limiting their post-release options because they have an adult criminal record. Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is clear: Incarcerating juveniles as adults does not deter future criminal behavior.

A special task force supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has looked carefully at the available research and recently recommended against the practice of subjecting juveniles to adult sentencing, finding that such practices led to an increase in violence.

“As a means of reducing juvenile violence, strengthened juvenile transfer policies are counterproductive,” the task force concluded.

There are other concerns as well. Adolescents’ brains are still developing, giving them less ability to think like adults and consider the ramifications of criminal behavior.

I have never seen much good come out of juveniles being treated as adults, and I do believe that while it makes us feel like we are being tough on crime it is largely ineffective at stopping the very crime we want to see reduced. What do you think? What role do you think the Church should have in this conversation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Juvenile Justice on Trial in Texas

By Shane Vander Hart 

I just read this article in the Chicago Tribune. I encourage you to read it, the allegations that are being made are incredible. Pray for wisdom for those who are investigating. The following example of injustice caught my attention. It is sad, but we see that here. Very rarely do we ever see a student who attends Valley High School in West Des Moines in lock-up, even though I know juvenile offenses have occured there as well.

Among the leading candidates for early release is Shaquanda Cotton, a black teenage girl from the small east Texas town of Paris, who was sent to prison for up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at her high school while other young white offenders convicted of more serious crimes received probation in the town’s courts.

Report: More Kids Are In Adult Prisons for Non-Violent Offenses

Please comment on this blog post from TalkLeft about juvenile offenders in adult lock-up. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

More and more kids are being locked up in adult jails. A new reports finds:

Despite a federal law that prohibits the incarceration of youth in adult correctional facilities, the number of young people held in jails across the country has exploded by 208 percent since the 1990s, according to a new report released today at the national press club by the Campaign for Youth Justice.

States exploit a loophole in federal law, which was designed to protect youth from the proven dangers of adult jails but only applies to youth in the juvenile justice system. Congress is considering the reauthorization of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) this year, and advocates are asking that all youth under 18 be protected from incarceration in adult facilities.

“Federal law exists to protect youth from being locked up in adult facilities, but too many youth are falling through the cracks,” said Campaign for Youth Justice executive director Liz Ryan. “We want Congress to close the loophole, and make sure every young person is treated the same. No youth under 18 should end up in an adult jail before they’ve even had a trial—it’s bad for youth and doesn’t protect communities.”

Bottom line:

Incarcerating youth as adults does not reduce crime and disproportionately
impacts youth of color.

What’s needed:

The report urges policy makers to take advantage of the shift in public opinion and new adolescent brain development research that inspired the Supreme Court to end the death penalty for minors. The report calls for a ban on the incarceration of youth in adult jails or prisons, and in the rare cases where the seriousness of a crime warrants consideration of prosecution in the adult system, a juvenile court judge should make the decision rather than prosecutors or state law.

In Florida, this particularly impacts black and hispanic kids. Andrea Robinson at the Miami Herald reported (sorry, no link).

Florida’s policies to crack down in the 1990s on spiraling juvenile crime have disproportionately snared black and Hispanic youths, sending more of them to adult jails even though most of their alleged crimes involve nonviolent offenses, a new report by a youth advocacy group says. According to a report released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Youth Justice, as many as 200,000 young people nationally are prosecuted as adults each year. The number of juveniles held in adult jails and prisons, the report says, has increased by 208 percent since the 1990s.

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