Thursday, May 22, 2014
Carrie Bettinger-Lopez sends this post written by student Kelsey Hayden. In this two part post, Ms. Hayden addresses Florida's shocking disregard of the human rights of juveniles in the criminal justice system.
Kelsey Hayden writes:
Juveniles accused of crimes in the United States are sometimes stripped of the protections that they should be afforded at a time when they are most vulnerable. Florida is perhaps one of the worst offenders when it comes to the deprivation of children’s rights in the criminal justice system. While most U.S. states permit the transfer of juveniles alleged to have committed certain crimes to adult criminal court for prosecution, Florida transfers more children under 18 to adult court than any other state. In Florida alone, more than 12,000 children were transferred to adult courts between 2008 and 2012. Florida is one of only 15 states to allow for prosecutorial discretion—and 1 of only 3 states to remove the possibility of any judicial review upon transfer—for all kids aged 14 and up who have been charged with certain enumerated crimes. Prosecutorial direct file removes all judicial discretion and is not in compliance with the corpus juris on children’s rights which provides that when alleged to have violated the penal law, a child has the right to have any potential measures reviewed by an impartial authority or judicial body. Following the March 2014 review of the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), the United Nations Human Rights Committee (“UNHRC”) recommended that the U.S. ensure that juveniles are not transferred to adult courts.
In Florida, one particularly troubling consequence of such transfers to the adult system is that juveniles who have been charged as adults are automatically detained pre-trial in adult county jails. As a result of a federal and state mandate that juveniles be held out of the sight and sound of adults, juveniles in adult facilities are sometimes held in administrative solitary confinement where they can languish for months, or longer. In the recent review of the United States’ compliance with the ICCPR, the UNHRC also expressed concern about the continued practice of holding juveniles in prolonged solitary confinement, including during pre-trial detention, and recommended that the United States impose “strict limits on the use of solitary confinement, both pretrial and following conviction . . . and abolish the practice in respect of anyone under the age of 18.”The use of solitary confinement on juveniles is a particularly critical concern in light of the mental harm that isolation causes to children. Some of the mental health consequences in juveniles include self-harm, suicidal thoughts/attempts, and hallucinations.
Ms. Hayden continues her discussion of this disregard of the right so juveniles in tomorrow's post.