Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Juvenile Life Without Parole and Juvenile Justice Policy

A new report released by The Sentencing Project, The Lives of Juvenile Lifers, is based on their survey of more than 1,500 prisoners who were sentenced to prison terms of life without parole when they were between the ages 13 to 17. The key themes established in the report include:

Socioeconomic Disadvantages, Education Failure, & Abuse

  • Two in five respondents had been enrolled in special education classes.
  • 77.3% of girls reported histories of sexual abuse; overall, 20.5% of juvenile lifers report being victims of sexual abuse.
Extreme Racial Disparities in JLWOP Sentences
  • The proportion of blacks serving life for killing a white person is much higher than the proportion of whites sentenced to life for killing blacks.
JLWOP Sentences Frequently Imposed Mandatorily
  • The majority of JLWOP sentences are imposed in states in which judges are obligated to sentence individuals without consideration of any factors relating to a juvenile’s age or life circumstances.
Corrections Policies Curtail Efforts at Rehabilitation
  • Most (61.9%) juvenile lifers are not engaged in programming in prison, but this is generally not due to lack of interest, but because of state or prison policies.

The report includes detailed analysis and more statistics regarding these themes and others. In addition to this report, there are a number of useful resources to learn more about the broader issues and impact of juvenile offenders and juvenile justice policy, including:

  • The Campaign for Youth Justice: An organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
  • The Burns Institute: The W. Haywood Burns Institute’s mission is to protect and improve the lives of youth of color, poor youth and the well-being of their communities by reducing the adverse impacts of public and private youth-serving systems to ensure fairness and equity throughout the juvenile justice system.
  • Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative: Designed to support the Casey Foundation’s vision that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults.
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: OJJDP, A component of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. OJJDP supports states and communities in their efforts to develop and implement effective and coordinated prevention and intervention programs and to improve the juvenile justice system so that it protects public safety, holds offenders accountable, and provides treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the needs of juveniles and their families.
  • The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform: The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute is designed to support leaders in the juvenile justice and related systems of care. The Center seeks to complement the good work being done across the country in juvenile justice reform by providing a multi-systems perspective and set of resources in support of this work.

When young people engage in delinquent or criminal behavior and are arrested it is important that they are held accountable for their actions. Policy must ensure that public safety remains a priority while addressing young people’s actions in ways that take into account their diminished decision-making capacity, their susceptibility to peer influence, and their unformed character, all of which make them less responsible for their conduct than are adults who commit similar offenses.

For new and updated results-based policy strategies for both preventing delinquency and ensuring quality juvenile justice services visit our homepage to sign-up for e-mail updates - coming soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SNAP: Supporting Families and the Economy

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program served approximately 45 million Americans in fiscal year 2011 and in doing so is credited with preventing a dramatic increase in hunger and food insecurity in spite of the historically high levels of unemployment and underemployment throughout the recession and its slow recovery. A new report from the Center for American Progress highlights the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in not only lifting 3.9 million families out of poverty (in 2010) – but also its strong impact on the U.S. economy. According to the report, the program plays an important role in sustaining demand for groceries provided by businesses across the country. The paper states that each $1 billion spent by recipients enables nearly 14,000 Americans to find or keep their jobs. That means approximately 1 million workers were employed last year because of this program.

The report, The Economic Consequences of Cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, highlights both the economic benefits of SNAP and the potential consequences for the economy if the SNAP program is reduced, including:

  • Each $1 billion reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eliminates 13,718 jobs.
  • A 10 percent reduction in the size of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would cause more than 96,000 job losses.
  • These losses would be particularly strong in food-related industries, which would lose as many as 11,000 jobs under a 10 percent cut to the program.
  • Job losses will likely have the greatest impact on younger workers, since they account for a disproportionate share of workers in food-related industries— nearly one-third of grocery employees are under 25, compared to just 14 percent of workers in all industries.

For state policymakers, creating a policy agenda aimed at rebuilding their state’s economic health demands investing in working parents and their children. As states work to serve families in need, considering the budget decisions at the federal level for programs like SNAP is important. To learn more about the SNAP program click here. For fact sheets on creating jobs, economic growth and an educated workforce for the future visit

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Healthcare Reform in the States

A study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the states with residents that have the most to gain from the Affordable Care Act – are also those who are the slowest to set up the insurance exchanges required under the health-care overhaul. The report, State Progress Toward Health Reform Implementation: Slower Moving States Have Much to Gain, outlines the projected impact for states as they implement the ACA. The report states that under the ACA, uninsurance rates will decrease in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C., contributing to a national decline of 24 million nonelderly uninsured individuals.

There are resources available that offer information on Affordable Care Act implementation providing both practical guidance as well as information about what is happening in states across the country. These resources are important tools because the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is instrumental in the policies effectiveness. One such resource, KidsWell is a state and national effort aimed at ensuring the successful implementation of health care reform on behalf of children. The goal of the KidsWell campaign is to sustain a multi-tiered, highly coordinated network of national, state and local partners working collectively to represent the perspectives of children. KidsWell has tools for successful state implementation of the ACA, state specific and national resources, state profiles, updates on what’s happening at the federal and state level and funding information.