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New legislation in the state of Washington could end the practice of incarcerating youth for status offenses like running away and truancy. Washington currently detains more youth for status offenses than any other state, and girls are arrested and detained at a higher rate than boys for these types of offenses. “The fact that a child can go into detention for something that isn’t a crime is state-sanctioned trauma.”
Sara’s Law, a bill seeking to protect child victims of sex trafficking and sexual assault from receiving life sentences for crimes committed against their abusers, was introduced by Representative Bruce Westerman. The bill is part of a package of three juvenile justice bills “that would also ban courts from sentencing any child to life without parole and would reduce the number of juveniles who receive mandatory minimum sentences in adult court.”
In Los Angeles County, a “new, interagency protocol to improve efforts to proactively identify and serve sexually exploited youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system” is being implemented in the county’s three juvenile detention centers. It’s part of a statewide effort to, “move away from blaming and criminalizing youth for their exploitation and instead serving them in holistic, trauma-informed ways.”
Girls and African-American youth constitute a disproportionate percentage of “dual-system youth” or youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
A new project and report from the Community Connections for Youth’s Participatory Action Team, G.I.R.L.S. N Da Hood, looks into the lives and experiences of “seven generations of Bronx femmes” 25 years old and younger who have been impacted by the justice system. Findings show that 60% of participants’ mothers had been arrested, and 70% had a femme-identifying family member or family figure who had been arrested.
Three San Francisco supervisors are drafting legislation to shutdown juvenile hall by 2021. If successful, the closure would make San Francisco the only urban area without a juvenile detention center in the state of California. Young Women’s Freedom Center applauded the supervisors’ commitment in a press release. A newly released poll from Youth First indicates that 71% of Americans support policies that emphasize youth rehabilitation over incarceration and the closure of youth prisons. A new research report from the Urban Institute provides four strategies for funding a community-based continuum of care to divert youth from the juvenile justice system.
A bipartisan bill in Florida would make free pads and tampons available to all girls and women in correctional facilities. Four percent of women newly admitted to 23 prison systems in the U.S. were pregnant at intake, according to a new study from the Pregnancy in Prison Statistics Project. “The study is the first research to track the number of pregnant people behind bars in more than a decade.”
The nonprofit Code/Out is teaching youth at an all-girls detention center in Macon, Georgia how to code, and guaranteeing paid internships to those who finish the program upon the completion of their sentence.
“I didn’t ever say, ‘Let me restart my life.’ Because my life was happening in juvenile hall. Instead, I told myself, ‘Let me keep going.’” Xochtil Lariosdiscusses life after juvenile incarceration.
Safety for Girls and Women
Trump’s pick to lead the Office on Violence Against Women, Shannon Goessling, has a concerning track record on issues relating to girls and women, including youth incarceration and same-sex marriage. “Goessling’s history of actively aiding systems of racist oppression reinforces her complete disregard for the women most vulnerable to violence in America,” writes Isabella Gomez Sarmiento for Teen Vogue.
H.R. 1585 the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2019 “is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives next week.” An attempt to repeal a provision in the Reauthorization Act that “gives tribal courts limited power to hold non-Native perpetrators accountable for violence against indigenous women” was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans also objected to and tried to repeal provisions that protect transgender women, and a provision that keeps people with histories of domestic abuse from owning firearms. They also aimed to add a provision that would ban organizations that provide abortion services from receiving federal funding under VAWA. However, none of these amendments passed.
Legislation focused on addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is making headway in Oregon and Arizona. HB 2625 in Oregon “directs Oregon State Police to study how to increase criminal justice and investigative resources toward past and future cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.” The bill passed the House and will now move to the state Senate. HB 2570, establishing a state task force on missing and murdered indigenous women in Arizona, is also moving to the Arizona Senate for consideration. Meanwhile, HB 21 or “Hannah’s Act” “remains in limbo” in Montana, due to uncertainty in the Senate over who should fund the legislation.
A two-part investigative report conducted by Rewire.News and Latino USA follows 24-year-old Laura Monterrosa’s reported sexual abuse while at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention center. The report looks at the way flaws and loopholes in the system fail to protect immigrant survivors of sexual abuse.Reporters involved in the two-part series discuss the investigation on the “Detained and Forgotten” episode of the podcast, In The Thick. A New York Times analysis revealed over 100 documented reports of sexual abuse of “undocumented women along the southern border over the last two decades.” Experts believe the real numbers are much higher.
In North Carolina, less than one in four people charged with sexual assault are convicted. In Ohio, a new study from the University of Cincinnati reveals that upwards of 1,030 young people were victims of human trafficking between 2014 and 2016.
“She decided to speak out, and they shut it right down,” Two New York police officers accused of sexually assaulting 18-year-old Anna Chambers while in police custody in 2017 will not be charged for the crime, despite ample physical evidence. The defense argued that Chambers consented to the acts, which was legal at the time in 35 states including New York. While a bill has since been passed in New York, “specifying that a person in police custody cannot consent to sex with an officer,” the District Attorney’s office says it was “not the law at the time of the incident.”
“I have been in and out of the foster system with my younger siblings since I was 9. Amid so many unknowns, one thing remains certain: I am grateful I was placed within my tribal community.” 22-year-old Autumn Adams writes on the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The U.S. fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Brakeen v. Bernhardt this month, a case resulting from Texas federal judge, Reed O’Connor’s ruling that declared ICWA unconstitutional back in November. Writer and organizer, Rebecca Nagle, explains why the repercussions of this case extend well beyond the well-being of Native children. The court has yet to issue a ruling.
In Oregon, efforts to address the large numbers of foster children housed in hotels has resulted in a 25% increase in the numbers of youth housed in former juvenile detention facilities. “If it feels like a jail, I just worry about who we’re telling these kids that they are,” says Senator Sara Gelser.
A set of newly proposed bills in Texas “would prohibit a court from ordering the termination of a parent-child relationship based on evidence that the parent acknowledges or declines to acknowledge the child’s gender identity or expression,” amending state law so that this could not be considered a form of abuse.
“It makes me feel like me and my kid don’t even deserve a chance,” Mikia Price, the mother of an 11-year-old Madison, Wisconsin middle schooler who was assaulted by a teacher at Whitehorse Middle School in February, is speaking out on the unfairness of the system. “She said she feels like every department that’s been a part of this investigation, the Madison Metropolitan School District and child protective services, have all told her that some other agency has failed during this investigation.”
For 12 years, middle-school physical education teacher Wedell Nibbs maintained his job at Brownsfield Middle School in Miami despite “four criminal sexual assault cases and allegations of sexual misconduct made by nine female students.” The mother of one of those students is filing a lawsuit against the Miami-Dade School Board: “I just want justice. Not just for my daughter, but for every other victim that he preyed on.”
Gender Spectrum, an organization dedicated to creating a gender-inclusive world for all children and youth, released “Principles for Gender-Inclusive Puberty and Health Education.” This first-of-its-kind resource includes five principles of gender-inclusive puberty education, “providing a foundation of gender literacy; distinguishing patterns from rules; emphasizing physiology, rather than gender; describing many pathways to adult bodies; and describing many pathways to families.”
A group of students at Ethical Culture Fieldston, a prestigious New York City private school, barricaded themselves inside the school overnight in an act of protest – responding to a racist video created by Fieldston students.
In North Carolina, Durham Public Schools are shifting towards restorative justice practices in addressing behavior that would otherwise result in in-school suspensions. Black and Latino students are still more likely to be disciplined, but discipline rates for “black female students, Latino students, and students with disabilities” have all decreased.
#MeToo Movement founder Tarana Burke is visiting five historically black colleges and universities to discuss sexual violence on college campuses: “Young black people across the diaspora ― along spectrums of class, gender, sexuality, and ability ― rely on and invest in HBCUs not to just facilitate an education, but to keep them safe while doing so,” Burke says.
It’s a calculated attack, going on all throughout the country, to eliminate access to abortion.”
In Alabama, a probate judge has allowed a man angered by his girlfriend’s choice to have an abortion to serve as the aborted embryo’s legal representative. The decision has paved the way for the man to file a wrongful death suit against the Alabama Women’s Center and the pharmaceutical company that produced the medicated abortion pill she used.
HB 481, one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country – banning the majority of abortions at six weeks when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically before most women even know they’re pregnant – passed the Georgia legislature and is awaiting a likely signature from Governor Brian Kemp. A similar law has also passed in Kentucky. In Tennessee, zoning laws are being used to restrict abortion access. Anti-choice legislation is continuing to move forward across the country, in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is trying to “force the Supreme Court to take action on abortion rights next term.”
The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, recently introduced by Congress, requires the reinstatement of vital data on reproductive health care in the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on human rights. This comes in response to the Trump administration’s removal of this data from the report.
- The NoVo Foundation is inviting letters of inquiry for The Life Story grants, “a $10 million, 3-year commitment for programs in the U.S that open exit ramps and close on-ramps to commercial sexual exploitation.” Deadline to submit is April 19, 2019.
- The Justice Collaborative is launching a volunteer task force to hold district attorneys accountable. Join their research or media amplification teams.
- The National Juvenile Justice Network is accepting fellow applications for the Youth Justice Leadership Institute. Deadline is April 29, 2019.
- The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence is running a national student challenge as part of the We Choose All of Us Story Exchange. Deadline to submit entries is May 10, 2019 at midnight.
- The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States hears testimony on the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
- A “young sexual assault survivor seeks peace and healing” with the “Sisters in Strength” program from Girls for Gender Equity.
- Survivors of Jeffrey Epstein’s large-scale sexual abuse of underage girls in 2008, are speaking out for the first time since a non-prosecution deal that gave him federal immunity and a 13-month sentence.
- A new report and toolkit from Grantmakers for Girls of Color, Start from the Ground Up: Increasing Support for Girls of Color “opens a window into opportunities for philanthropy to be more equitable and accountable to girls of color”
- “Amber Evans dedicated her life to activism, helping others”
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are allocating $43 million in federal grants to state and local governments for programming to address maternal mortality
- “Let’s Stop Ignoring the Truths of Puberty. We’re Making It Even More Awkward”
- Boy Scouts of America is now accepting girls into all of its ranks
- Teen dating violence often goes unreported because teens think it’s “normal” or they fear not being believed
- HB 3 in Florida “would preempt local laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” – compromising the rights and protections of nearly 600,000 LGBTQ and gender nonconforming Floridians
- “The school to prison pipeline is getting worse for black and brown girls”
- Mountain biking encourages strength and confidence in girls“
- Programs that support basic living standards for LGBTQ women should be strengthened – not cut” a fact sheet from National Women’s Law Center
- A Rising Tide: Understanding Incarceration’s Multigenerational Impact on Women, Girls, and Communities – Stoneleigh Foundation and Maternity Care Coalition (Philadelphia PA, April 4)
- Justice Reform for Women and Girls roundtable – Platform (Washington DC, April 4)
- Webinar: Americans’ Awareness of Youth Homelessness – National Network for Youth and Street Child United USA (Online, April 23)
- Punishing Trauma: Institutional and Individual Responses and Consequences for Children’s Adversities – Columbia University (New York NY, April 26)
- In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Opportunity, and Justice for Girls – National Crittenton (Atlanta GA, May 9-11)
- Webinar: Building Resiliency for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System by Disrupting the Abuse to Prison Pipeline (Online, May 16)
- Covington Curriculum Conference – The Connecticut Women’s Consortium (Stamford CT, June 4-6)
- 3rd National Symposium on Solutions to End Youth Homelessness – Point Source Youth (New York NY, June 17-19)
- Bridging the Gap: Improving Outcomes for All Youth – Coalition for Juvenile Justice (Washington DC, June 19-22)
- Unleashing the Power of Positive Transformation: Breaking Barriers Building Futures – Credible Messenger Justice Center (New York NY, June 27)
“Just because we can’t vote doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a seat at the table, especially when the topic of discussion is our futures.”
Source: 16-year-old Isha Tobis Clarke, Oakland student and activist
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