Report Looks at Mentoring Needs of Kids with Parents in Lock-Up


A recently released report, “Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents,” provides recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of mentoring programs that serve children who have parents in jail or prison.

The report, authored by researchers with the American Institutes for Research, the University of Minnesota and the Institute for Health Research and Policy, and funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), features a thorough review of the literature on mentoring for children with incarcerated parents.

A Sept. 2013 "Listening Session" hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Domestic Policy Council was also incorporated into the report. More than 40 people, including mentoring organization representatives and those designated as Champions of Change for Children of Incarcerated Parents by the White House last summer, contributed to the day-long session.

Over the last 20 years, the number of children in the nation with an incarcerated parent has steadily risen, the authors of the report say. They estimate 1.7 million kids currently have at least one parent serving a prison sentence, and “millions more” have a mother or father in jail. African-American youths are at substantially greater risk, the report states; black youths are three times more likely than Hispanic youths to have an incarcerated parent, and nearly seven times likelier to have an incarcerated parent than white youths.

Prior research suggests young people with incarcerated parents are more likely to have worse mental and physical health outcomes than their peers, as well as perform worse in school. The children of incarcerated parents, the report indicates, are also at greater risk of engaging in delinquent and antisocial behavior.

The report produced three specific policy recommendations for youths with imprisoned parents: the development of “strategic supports” to enhance mentoring programs, the cultivation of a “community of practice” for mentoring children with incarcerated parents and greater investments in research to pinpoint evidence-based models for mentoring children with moms and dads behind bars.

The findings, the authors state, show mentoring is a valuable resource for young people with incarcerated parents -- although working with the population does pose specific counseling challenges.

“Children of incarcerated parents are as likely as other youth to have the kinds of positive experiences in their relationships with mentors that contribute to positive outcomes,” the report says. “At the same time, attention to special considerations that may arise in mentoring children of incarcerated parents is warranted.”

The authors urge monitoring and support systems include personalized staff check-ins not only with mentors, but with the family of the youth as well.

The authors of the study, however, note that evidence-based research regarding best practices for the population is limited. Substantial investments, the report states, are necessary to fill in current knowledge gaps, beginning with a firmer “foundational understanding and documentation” of the overall effectiveness of mentoring as an intervention for the population.

New Study to Focus on Impact of Family Visits for Incarcerated Youth

VeraThe Vera Institute of Justice has announced that it will conduct a two-year study to examine the possible impact of increased family visits on juvenile residents in Indiana.

Recently, the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services (DYS) altered its policies, allowing family visitations as many as six times a week. The study, funded by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), will assess the links between increased family visits and behavioral and educational outcomes for DYS residents.

“We reached out to Indiana and asked if we could apply for this federal grant to study them, because what they’re doing is very innovative and certainly not the standard practice across the country,” Margaret diZerega, director of Vera’s Family Justice Program, told JJIE.

Two years ago, the state’s DYS was selected as a pilot site for Vera’s “family engagement standards,” which the organization developed alongside the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute. The DYS pinpointed visitation as an area the agency could improve upon, and a subsequent policy update last year resulted in the doubling of facility visitation rates.

“They made some pretty significant policy changes at the beginning of last year, so that families were able to visit almost as often as they wanted,” diZerega said. “So we’re interested in learning what the impact of that policy change is.”

Researchers will look at administrative data and conduct interviews with staffers, incarcerated youths and their families as part of the upcoming project. To measure the possible impact of visitations on recidivism, two cohorts will be studied; youth released from DYS custody between 2010 and 2012, before the visitation policies were updated, and youth released in 2013, after the policy change. Dr. Ryan Shanahan, senior program associate for the Family Justice Program, said an additional one-year-out recidivism study may be conducted once the two-year DYS study concludes.

Shanahan said she is optimistic that the study will provide greater evidence for a link between family visits and improved resident outcomes. “There’s a dearth of this kind of research in the field, and while criminal justice administrators across the country intuitively know that having more family contact can lead to better outcomes for the youth in their care, it would be great to have evidence that backs that up,” she said.

Council of Juvenile Corrections Administrators’ (CJCA) Ned Loughran said that increased family visitations can only be viewed as a positive for young people in the nation’s juvenile justice facilities.

“It has a calming influence on kids,” Loughran said. “They’re not going to act out if they know their parents are going to be there this week, and the next week and the week after.”

Isolating youths from family contacts may constitute a formula for juvenile misbehavior, he said. “I’ve been in juvenile corrections for almost 40 years and this is one of those ideas whose time has come, and it came a lot later than it should have come,” he said. “The facilities must be open to the parents; much more welcoming of them. … They must make them a part of their youth’s rehabilitation.”

Previous Vera research conducted in Ohio indicated a potential connection between expanded family visitations and educational and behavioral outcomes for its DYS residents. Through the study, diZerega believes Indiana is in a position to “set a new tone” for the nation’s juvenile justice agencies.

“We often get asked why family contact matters for youth in facilities, and I think to be able to learn through this study is one way we can answer that question,” she said. “Through what we learn from this study, we can provide some evidence to inform any kind of policy change that other jurisdictions might want to make.”


Georgia Reform Council Recommends Further Changes After Juvenile Code Rewrite

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 9.50.10 AMGeorgia’s juvenile justice system has undergone numerous sweeping changes to begin the new year. With a new law (HB 242) taking effect earlier this month, a just released Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform (GCCJR) report makes several recommendations to alter the state’s freshly rewritten code, ranging from simple terminology amendments to deeper state and federal agency interaction.

The law, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal last year, seeks to lower the number of beds in the state’s juvenile justice facilities, primarily via community-based alternatives to detention. The state has already handed out $6 million as part of an incentive grant program, with evidence-based programs, like Functional Family Therapy and Multi-Systemic Therapy, sprouting up in regions serving almost three quarters of Georgia’s entire at-risk youth population. Additionally, the code rewrite bars the confinement and detention of juveniles for status offenses, and creates the classification “Children in Need of Services” (CHINS) as a substitution for the previous “unruly” child designations.

The commission estimated that prior to the enactment of HB 242 the state was spending an average of $90,000 annually per secured residential juvenile facility bed. Approximately a quarter of young people in out-of-home placement had been adjudicated for low-level offenses, and about four out of 10 residents were assessed as “low-risk” to reoffend.

“Despite costs of more than $300 million annually, more than half of the youth in the juvenile system were re-adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a criminal offense within three years of release, a rate that had held steady since 2003,” the report states. “The Council’s initiatives are expected to save an estimated $85 million through 2018 and avoid the need to open two additional juvenile residential facilities.”

Additional savings, the report said, could be realized by simply using different language. GCCJR encouraged the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to alter its delinquency court order language as a means of procuring more federal funding. Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, federal matching funds are provided for states that use child-specific “best interest” language in court orders, alongside certified “reasonable efforts” to avoid child removal from his or her home in fewer than 60 days. By changing the court order terminology, the GCCJR said, the state could have been eligible for funds that would have allotted more than $4 million to Georgia’s DJJ over the last two fiscal years.

“DJJ estimates an increase of $2 million a year in additional federal reimbursement based on last year’s data of Title IV-E eligible DJJ youth without the required Title IV-E language in their court orders,” the report states. “If the ‘contrary to the welfare’ and ‘reasonable efforts’ language were included in delinquency court orders for Department of Juvenile Justice youth, DJJ would have claimed an additional $4.2 million for FY 2012 and FY 2013 -- an average of 44 youth per quarter.”

By July, the GCCJR recommends Georgia establish a process for transmitting Title IV-E data on DJJ youths to federal oversight agencies. This can be accomplished either via vendor outsourcing or use of existing DJJ and Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) staff, according to the report.

The GCCJR report suggests the state maintain its current definition of juvenile recidivism -- any offense that results in adjudication within three years of a placement release -- but recommends Georgia use Pre-Dispositional Risk Assessment (PDRA) calculations to measure risk-adjusted recidivism rates, which would then be applied retroactively to create a “trend line.” However, the GCCJR pinpoints independent counties as a potential barrier. Because they do not receive funding from state grants, they are not required to submit information to the state’s juvenile justice information systems.

The Council also recommends that Georgia create legislation that would allow the state to participate in the Interstate Compact on Juveniles. As JJIE first reported in 2011, Georgia was the only state that did not join in the agreement, which provides a framework allowing the seamless transition of juveniles from one state to another.

“At this time, Georgia is no longer being notified of incoming youth from Compact member states, presenting potential public safety risks as well as increasing costs to Georgia’s juvenile justice system in the form of new commitments,” the report states. “Additionally, Georgia, while being financially responsible for the safe return of its own runaway youth, is finding it increasingly difficult to force Compact member states to bear the financial burden for the safe return of their youth.”

No Longer Silent

The White House Boys speak out on abuses suffered at the hands of a Florida reform school.

>> Click here to read the main story "The Ghosts of the Past" by James Swift 

Bob Baxter.
Bob Baxter.

Bob Baxter was 15 when his mother asked a judge to send him to Marianna.

“I never saw a judge or nothing,” said the now 80-year-old Baxter. “I went to a courthouse and I sat in a chair outside. The deputy came and got me, and the next thing I know, I was in Marianna.” It was 1950.

After just three weeks at the facility, Baxter tried to escape. On the run for several days, he was apprehended by Marianna officials and taken to the infamous “White House,” where he was beaten with a wooden board. He made a second escape attempt, and received an even more terrible beating. “I woke up in the hospital,” Baxter said. “I never ran again.”

He joined the United States Marine Corps after leaving Marianna. His experiences at the reform school, he said, were worse than what he experienced in the Korean War.

“Nothing they could do to me in Korea,” he said, “matched Marianna.”

Joseph Johnson, 67, went to the Florida School for Boys’ Okeechobee campus at the age of 12. “The judge told me I was going down there to ride horses, play ball, go to school,” he said. “He didn’t know Okeechobee was the stepson of Marianna.”

At the facility, Johnson claimed to have been molested by staffers twice. The abuse he suffered in Okeechobee, he recalled, “messed me up really bad” and “gave me a lot of complexes.”

In the last few months before his release, Johnson slept in a broom closet. He had made a bed on the floor and used a nightlight on the wall to read passages from the Bible. He begged God to do anything to get him out of the facility.

For half a century, the only person he ever talked to about his experiences in Okeechobee was his wife. At the behest of a priest, he traveled back to the campus in 2000.

While the Marianna campus had “the White House,” the Okeechobee campus, Johnson said, had “the Library.” There, he said boys were often handcuffed to beds and brutally beaten.

During his visit, Johnson said his priest and his wife encountered a man that not only confirmed his stories of abuse, but actually showed them physical evidence.

“He opened up a desk drawer,” Johnson said, “and pulled out handcuffs, chains and the whips that they used on us.”

He described the leather straps used on children at the facility. “About five and a half, six inches wide, about two and a half feet long, with a big wooden handle on it,” he said. “When they beat you with that, you’re not going to walk or sit down for the next week.”

Other former Florida School for Boys residents have spoken of similar experiences:

Aaron Burns, 41, is one of the younger ex-White House Boys. He spent time at the Marianna campus from 1986 until 1989.

One day, he recalled getting hit in the head while watching television. He thought he had been struck by a mop by a fellow resident. However, when he awoke, his supervisors -- commonly referred to as “cottage parents” or “cottage fathers” by many White House Boys -- seemed less than concerned about his injury.

“I woke up,” he said, “and the cottage parents were still sitting at their desks, laughing.”

Growing up, Burns said, his stay at the facility filled him with confusion, anger and loneliness. “There’s a lot of dark secrets at that place,” he said. “If you made it after you got out of Marianna without going to prison, I’m surprised.”

James Denyke, 64, was sent to Marianna for being “incorrigible.” He arrived at the facility in 1964, at age 15. He went to the White House just once during his 18-month stay. “One time was enough for me,” he said. “I’d rather stick my head in the oven than go through that again.”

The smell of the room and the sound of the industrial fan, are scorched into his memory. “I hear that goddamn fan, because it was deafening,” he said. The worst part, he said, was having to listen to other children get beaten before him.

As an adult, he was given a three-year sentence for stealing a car. The vehicle, he said, belonged to one of his former cottage fathers at the Boys School. He drifted for several years afterwards, and developed a serious alcohol problem. Outside of sobering up, he said the greatest accomplishment of his life was receiving a full pardon from the governor of Florida. Today, he’s the sergeant-at-arms for the White House Boys; his motorcycle flies the official WHB colors.

He said he’s not looking for compensation from the state.

“An apology is what we’re looking for,” he said. “And them admitting wrongdoing for all of us who’ve suffered.”

Doug Stover
Doug Stover

Doug Stover was another resident at the Okeechobee campus. Now 63, he entered the facility in 1966, when he was 16 years old.

One day, another boy at the reform school attacked Stover. Later in the day, Stover cursed at him. Guards overheard Stover, and punished him by hitting him 35 times with a leather belt.

Cottage fathers at the campus, Stover said, periodically threw boxing gloves to residents and forced them to fight for their entertainment. The guards would make bets and laugh, he said.

After leaving the school, Stover did what many boys at the facility attempted to -- push the experiences to the recesses of his mind. Now in his 60s, he still feels traces of that boyhood fear.

He is unable to fully address his traumatic experiences at the facility, so financial compensation would do him little good, he said.

“I want the state of Florida to write me a personal apology, and I want it public,” he said. “I want them to hold themselves accountable for their action and inactions to the abuse of children.”

The Ghosts of the Past

Decades later, their experiences at a notorious Florida facility still haunts the men who were confined there as boys.

Combining footage from a 1950s Florida Department of Corrections video depicting the Florida School for Boys and original interviews with former residents recalling heinous beatings and abuse, this video tells the complex story of one of the nation's most notorious juvenile residential facilities.

MARIANNA, Fla. -- The Florida School for Boys housed kids for six decades before Michael Tucker was sent there. An “incorrigible youth,” Tucker arrived at the facility, nestled deep in the woodlands of the Florida panhandle, in 1960. He was 16 years old.

There, Tucker received three severe beatings, he says, one of which left him hospitalized for five days. “They decided to send me off and straighten me out,” Tucker, who is now 69, said. “They sent me up there, and beat the hell out of me.”

Tucker worked in the school’s kitchen. He recalls an 11-year-old child with a nervous tic: when the boy came down the chow line, Tucker would always give him extra servings.

Michael Tucker was sent to the Florida School for Boys in 1960 when he was 16 years old. There, Tucker received three severe beatings, he says, one of which left him hospitalized for five days.
Michael Tucker was sent to the Florida School for Boys in 1960 when he was 16 years old. There, Tucker received three severe beatings, he says, one of which left him hospitalized for five days.

One day, school officials ordered Tucker into a small building on campus known as the White House, where hundreds of former residents alleged to have received violent whippings.

Tucker saw the boy from the chow line inside the building. He was lying on a bed, sobbing and yelling.

“They made me get at the head of that bed, pull his arms up behind his back, while another boy held his feet,” Tucker said. “While they beat him, he was sitting near my face, screaming for his mama.”

After that incident, Tucker says, the young boy could no longer look him in the eye when he passed through the cafeteria, and that hurt worse than any lashing.

Stories like this are not unusual among former Florida School for Boys residents. Others recall being dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night -- “going down,” they called it. They allege guards beat them with leather straps at the White House, some saying they received more than 100 lashes per incident. The guards would turn on a loud fan to muffle the boys’ screaming.

Several men claim school personnel molested them. Others allege some of the school’s staff went so far as to murder boys held there.

The psychological and physical trauma followed many into adulthood. The memories of their abuse, they say, are as vivid and emotionally taxing to them today as they were a half century ago.

>> See more portraits of the White House Boys on Bokeh, JJIE's art blog, HERE <<

When they grew up, some boys became drifters, some became alcoholics and many ended up as felons. But others grew up to be pastors, high-ranking corrections officials and businessmen. A few even became multimillionaires.

Despite their varied outcomes, the “White House Boys,” as they call themselves, remain unified by their shared childhood experiences. After decades of silence, they came together once more, reconnecting through the Internet and publicizing their abuses to the world at large.

Nobody Believed Us

Officially shut down in 2011, the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. was plagued by both allegations and confirmed accounts of abuse for more than a century.
Officially shut down in 2011, the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. was plagued by both allegations and confirmed accounts of abuse for more than a century.

The Florida State Reform School in Marianna operated for more than a century. Over the years, the school underwent a number of name changes. From its opening in 1900 to its official shuttering in 2011 -- when it was known as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys -- the facility was plagued by allegations and confirmed accounts of abuse and wrongdoing. By 1913, the facility had been the target of no less than six state investigations. Six months after its closing, the United States Department of Justice released a report confirming numerous incidents of staffers using excessive force on residents, along with “inappropriate uses of isolation and extensions of confinement for punishment and control.”

Allegations of resident abuse at the facility go as far back as 1903, including reports of children as young as 5 being chained to walls. Press clippings from the 1950s screamed headlines such as “State Board to Meet on Boy-Beating” and “Brutality Count to Be Aired.” In the early 1960s, one employee at the Okeechobee campus -- a southern Florida site opened in 1955 -- sent a resignation letter to then-director Arthur Dozier, which said, “Conditions here have been such that to continue would soon, very probably, mean professional suicide.” In the 1980s, a class-action lawsuit filed against the facility resulted in the outlawing of both the “hog-tying” of juvenile residents and placing them in isolation for weeks at a time.

Despite these reports, many of which were later corroborated by state and federal investigators, the White House Boys said few people believed them when they spoke of their experiences in Marianna and Okeechobee.

“When you try to tell this to anyone … they tend to blow you off,” said William Haynes, 70. He entered the facility in 1957, at the age of 14.

In 1958, Dr. Eugene Byrd, a psychologist who had worked at the Florida School for Boys, testified before a U.S. Senate committee. He described the beatings he witnessed.

“If they’re not going to believe him,” Haynes said, “they’re certainly not going to believe a 14-year-old boy.”

Brothers Charles and George Fudge both spent time at Marianna. Charles, 65, was 13 when he entered, while George, 67, was 14. Both served stints at the facility for grand theft.

“I never told anybody about the beating,” Charles said. “I think they put the fear in us that if we ever told anybody who came to visit, that we would get a beating much worse than the one we had received.”

George said he was told not to tell anyone about what he experienced. “Why tell if you’re going to get another beating?”

White House Boys President Dick Colon, 70, went to Marianna at age 13. He was sent to the facility in 1958 for car theft and incorrigibility -- in short, general disobedience of parents, teachers and other authority figures.

Colon stayed at the facility for 33 months, and he never told his family about his abuse.

Like many White House Boys, he resolved to forget about what he experienced.

No One Ever Said Stop

Currently the site of an ongoing excavation, the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. was in operation for more than 100 years.
Currently the site of an ongoing excavation, the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. was in operation for more than 100 years.

“It was such a beautiful place,” said Claude Robins, 75, as he recounted his first day at Marianna. “Great big pine trees, nice dormitories.”

He went into the facility in 1953, at the age of 14. He spent 16 months at the campus for the crimes of theft and “waywardness” -- like “incorrigibility,” it was something of a catchall for juvenile misbehavior.

“One day, I just ran,” Robins said. Later that evening, a state employee apprehended him. “I think they earned $25 a piece for being in on the capture,” he said. “The guy got out, and put the pistol upside my head and drug me into the car.”

He was then taken to the White House and stripped down to his underwear. He was told to keep his face down and bite a pillow to silence his screams. “It’s a real small room,” he recalled. “It’s only about six feet wide.” As the leather strap cracked in the air, it sounded like flapping bird wings to Robins. When the paddle met flesh, it sounded like a shotgun blast. The most lashes he ever received, he said, was around 40 or so.

At the facility, Robins befriended a mentally handicapped boy. He recalled feeding him candy bars, and frequently getting into fights to protect him from being bullied by other residents. One morning, Robins said, he discovered his friend lying motionless. The night before, both he and Robins had been sent to the White House for punishment.

“I went to his bed to check on him and he was cold,” Robins said. “When I came in that afternoon, he wasn’t there.” Robins asked a cottage father what happened to him. “He’s dead,” the man said. He told Robins the boy was being taken to the mental institution and he died.

“No, he was dead, in that bed,” Robins said. “I’m sure of that.”

Charles Fudge recalled receiving 31 lashings on his third day at the campus. His brother George threatened to attack the guard who beat him, and George was soon sent to the White House as well. “They’d come and get you at 10 o’clock to midnight and take you down to whip you,” he recalled.

Two other Fudge brothers went to Marianna; one later committed suicide.

William Haynes compared his stay in Marianna to his stint in active combat. “If I had a choice to go back to Vietnam or go back to the White House, I’d dance all the way to Vietnam.”

He was sent to Marianna for stealing a car. To this day, he denies the charge. “At the time, I didn’t even know how to drive a car,” he said. “My feet wouldn’t reach the pedals.”

Several days after entering the facility, Haynes got into a fight and was sent to the White House. His first time there, he received 45 lashes. Days later, he was approached by facility personnel in the middle of the night. He was forced to march across campus to another location before he fled. He was apprehended in town the next morning, and received 100 lashes as punishment.

In all he received eight beatings while at the facility, Haynes said. The most he ever received in one incident, he said, was 135 lashes.

Banding Together and Facing the Past

Former Florida School for Boys resident Joseph Johnson displays a report card issued to him at the facility. Johnson said he was beaten and molested by personnel during his stay.
Former Florida School for Boys resident Joseph Johnson displays a report card issued to him at the facility. Johnson said he was beaten and molested by personnel during his stay.

With the advent of the Internet, former White House Boys were able to reconnect on the Web to publicize their experience. Many current members of the organization said they joined the group after reading articles or seeing stories about the reform school’s history in national publications and cable news programs.

Roger Kiser, founder of the official White House Boys organization, was another “incorrigible” child, sent to the reform school twice -- once in 1959 at age 12, and the second time at age 13 in 1960. He was 15 when he finally left the campus.

“Over the past seven years, I’ve seen people start talking about something they’ve never been able to talk about,” he said. “It enables them to deal with those emotions … and heal themselves.”

In 2009, White House Boys President Dick Colon was one of many former Florida School for Boys residents who initiated a class-action suit against several state agencies, which was later dismissed. “We decided that we would come together and talk to some counsel about what had happened to us.”

Most of the boys who left the school, Colon said, wondered how they would ever put their abuse behind them. “There’s a relief in being able to look at each other and know where he’s been, and he looks at me, and he knows where I’ve been.”

George Fudge said he still has nightmares about what happened at Marianna. By meeting with the group, however, he’s been able to exorcise some of his own demons.

Charles said the time at Marianna instilled a great amount of anger and bitterness in some members, but the shared experience allowed the White House Boys to form greater bonds with one another. “We see so much of the same pattern through each other’s lives,” he said.

Former Florida state Rep. Gustavo Barreiro was director of the state’s juvenile residential programs from 2006 until 2009. After receiving a phone call from a former resident of the reform school, he began working very closely with the White House Boys. It was the first he had heard about abuses at the facility. He visited Marianna shortly thereafter and spoke with a barber, who not only told him that the entire town was aware of abuses at the facility, but even told him of rumors about secret onsite cemeteries. [SEE SIDEBAR]

“Other state legislators kind of felt like, ‘Oh there’s really no proof of this,’” he said. “They warned me, ‘You should really not get involved in this.’” They felt it could potentially embarrass the Department of Juvenile Justice and the state of Florida, he said.  Other state lawmakers advised him to appease former residents with “rhetoric,” and wait until the news blew over. However, the situation was so compelling that he couldn’t walk away from it.

“They were finding each other through the Internet, and the story wasn’t just one individual or two individuals,” he said. “This was much bigger than myself, much bigger than the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

The department, Barreiro alleges, was well aware that abuse was occurring at the sites. “Their reaction has basically been the same reaction they have when any crisis happens [involving kids],” he said. “They circle the wagons, try to control the message and try to control the damages that they could face politically or … financially.”

The abuses at Marianna and Okeechobee, he said, are incidents the state cannot shy away from. “From beatings to rapes, this is not just one man coming forth,” he said. “These are hundreds of men, telling the same story.”

Despite grievances the group may have with Florida’s government, Jerry Cooper, acting White House Boys president, praised the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

“I have already told the DJJ office I can’t believe the improvements that have been made over the past five years,” he said. “Boot camps have been shut down and at least six, seven, maybe more, child institution holding places have been shut down for good.”

The group, Cooper said, is keeping an eye on Florida’s juvenile justice system.

“The state is definitely working on making this a better place for the juveniles,” he said. “As White House Boys, we’re going to be watchdogs.”

A Common Cause

Doug Stover
Doug Stover

As an organization, the White House Boys have sought monetary compensation in the past, but for most members of the group, financial reimbursement isn’t their utmost concern; it’s ensuring that systems-involved children don’t go through the same experiences they did.

The main reason Charles joined the organization was to help prevent children from being abused in institutions. “If this keeps one child from being abused the way we were,” he said, “then money doesn’t mean anything to me.

Every year, the White House Boys make arrangements through the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide Christmas gifts to incarcerated young people in Brooksville, Fla.

“A lot of them have no parents or parents that don’t care,” Cooper said. “A lot of them will not get a Christmas, unless we go up there and make sure they have that special day.”

Haynes, who worked in Alabama’s Department of Corrections for 30 years, said he wants Florida agencies to take greater strides to ensure the safety of children.

“Juvenile justice in Florida needs some standards,” he said. “I want to hear them preach it: It is not OK to harm children.”

As a reminder of Florida’s past wrongdoings, the names of all the White House Boys, he said, should be read aloud at every police academy in the state.

“I want Marianna brought up in every class,” he said.

Colon, who made his fortune as an electrical contractor, started a trust fund for children at the very facilities where he was beaten. He feels immense comfort knowing that no child in Florida will ever have to visit the White House again.

“The resources that were expended there to do what they did to us could very easily have been expanded in another direction, and good could have come out of it,” he said. “The mere fact that nobody was going to lay in that bed again and have to bite that nasty, rotten piece of shit pillow and scream for their mother and scream for God when that belt bounced on their asses? You have to feel good about that.”


>> For more on the White House Boys, read the sidebar story "No Longer Silent" 

NCCD Receives Grant to Explore Juvenile Justice Funding Model

The California Endowment awarded the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and Third Sector Capital Partners a $250,000 grant.
The California Endowment awarded the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and Third Sector Capital Partners a $250,000 grant.

The California Endowment on Dec. 16 awarded the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and Third Sector Capital Partners a $250,000 grant to conduct feasibility studies evaluating the viability of the Pay for Success (PFS) model as a funding mechanism in both California’s juvenile justice and foster care systems.

Caroline Whistler, advisory services co-founder and partner for Third Sector, said the PFS model represents a new type of government performance-based contract.

“The general purpose of this grant is, really at a high level, to engage potential government partners at the county-level, and engage and educate them about the Pay for Success opportunities in these two areas,” Whistler said.

[module align="right" width="half" type="aside"]“So rather than putting the kid, the victim and the community through the entire traditional justice system these kids, these youth, have an opportunity to do something different, and as a result, they’re not going to jail, they’re not being placed in custody.” [/module]

PFS programs are outcome-centered, with most of the financing coming from non-foundation or agency streams. Under the model, local governments only pay for services if the programs yield positive outcomes.

“Because governments don’t have to put up the money initially, you’re able to think about innovation and differentiation from what is traditionally being done,” said NCCD President Alex Busansky. “And it helps out with some of the frequently upfront costs of any kind of innovation that might be too onerous for many jurisdictions to take on.”

The traditional juvenile justice system, he said, displaces far too many young people from their homes, schools and neighborhoods. One area the NCCD is focusing on in the feasibility study is the development of restorative justice alternatives.

“So rather than putting the kid, the victim and the community through the entire traditional justice system,” he said, “these kids, these youth, have an opportunity to do something different, and as a result, they’re not going to jail, they’re not being placed in custody.”

Another focal point of the PFS grant is improving outcomes for the state’s foster care youth, primarily through targeting interventions to reduce placement disruptions.

“You’re going to see an average of around seven moves during a typical span of time in foster care,” he said. “For many kids, after the second or third move, they’re not going to another family, they’re going into congregate care.”

The PFS model, he said, may draw new funders and investors into areas like child welfare and juvenile justice, which many are not currently participating in.

“When we look at Pay for Success, I think we’re looking at a space that is ripe to bring new people in,” he said. “And I want to do it in a way that’s replicable and imitable by other jurisdictions across the country, and not just in California.”

The PFS outcome-based contracting model encourages social innovation financing (SIF), whether from philanthropists, impact investors or commercial lenders, Whistler said. Successful PFS-funded pilot programs could encourage county-level governments to make new investments in juvenile detention alternatives and prevention programming. And in areas where governments are already investing, the model could help agencies become more performance-driven, she said.

“It could really encourage governments to sort of take the risk of this pilot,” Whistler said. “And if these programs, through social innovation financing, prove successful, it could actually convince government to reallocate more dollars.”

Working in tandem with the NCCD, she said, allows Third Sector to share child welfare and juvenile justice data. In turn, that information can be used to help construct performance-based contracts.

“The intent of the California Endowment is that we’re going to focus now on two really critical areas for pilots,” Whistler said. “But the hope is that we will create models that can be replicated across counties -- certainly in California, and potentially outside the state as well.”


National Coalition Asks Americans to ‘Stand Up’ to JLWOP

Stand Up for Fair Sentencing mapThe Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth is asking individuals across the United States to mark their locations on a virtual map, in an online display of solidarity against the practice of placing juvenile offenders in jail for life.

The promotion, Stand Up for Fair Sentencing, allows Web visitors to list themselves on a map, which is color-coordinated to display the total number of prisoners sentenced for crimes committed as juveniles who are now serving life without parole in each state.

“This project is really meant to be a mobilizing tool to engage people interested in taking a stand for the fair sentencing of youth,” said Jody Kent Lavy, director and national coordinator for the organization.

The tool allows individuals across the country to voice their support for what Lavy described as “needs-appropriate alternatives” to juvenile incarceration. Once users sign onto the map, she said, the organization will contact signatories and update them about reform efforts in their respective states.

The project, she added, gives visitors a very quick glance at incarcerated juvenile populations across the nation. “People always ask, ‘How does my state fare compared to other states?’” Lavy said. “The idea is that we will update the map with different kinds of information for each state, so people can return to the website and see what’s happening.”

Instead of judging children based upon their “greatest failures,” Lavy said she would like to see a juvenile justice system that instead focuses on helping young offenders fulfill their greatest potential.

“This is the most extreme sentence we impose on our children,” Lavy said. “So we as a nation should be concerned about this -- and should be, frankly, outraged.”

James Ross, CFSY communications director, said that “every dot matters” when it comes to demonstrating mass support for juvenile LWOP reform on the interactive media platform.

“The Stand Up for Fair Sentencing project is a way for people to interact with this issue and our organization even if they aren’t yet ready to participate in a more time-intensive activity,” Ross said. “This type of project is unique because it creates an opportunity for people to move from passive recipient of information to active engagement with the issue.”

The states with the most juveniles serving life without parole sentences, he said, may not be the ones most people would assume. The gradated online map, he continued, is designed to get more individuals interested in the overall issue of juvenile LWOP sentencing.

Ross hopes stories of young people and families impacted by such sentences raises awareness about JLWOP, and prompts more Americans to rally behind reform polices that focus on “age-appropriate” alternatives that emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration services.

“When people learn more about this practice they often realize it is not an appropriate way to hold children accountable,“ Ross said. “Adolescence development research has demonstrated – among other things -- that children do not have the same capacity as adults to process the long-term consequences of their actions or avoid peer pressure. … This project introduces people to the issue and people can learn more about it as they go deeper into our site.”

A Juvenile Public Defender and the ‘Untreated’ Disease of Poverty

The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.
The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.

This story is part of an ongoing series about juvenile indigent defense.

JONESBORO, Ga. -- Jerry Drayton’s office contrasts sharply with the rest of the Youth Development and Justice Center here in Clayton County, Ga. Although the facility is comprised mostly of light white, silver and yellow tones, the 66-year-old public defender’s chambers resemble a college dorm room. Posters of Elvis, Barack Obama memorabilia and even several Thunderbird model cars adorn his workspace.

juvenile_indig-01“I’m a product of the ‘60s,” Drayton said. “We felt like the best way to change things was through the law.” After three decades as a Morehouse College professor, he said he wants to finish his career by working with disadvantaged children.

So, for the last six years, Drayton has worked as a juvenile public defender.

His case today is centered around a teen who allegedly attacked a hotel worker. “She identified my client as the one who hit her,” Drayton said. “Really, we don’t have a defense, because his biggest problem is, he was out at 12 o’clock at night and he’s 13-years-old.”

It’s the boy’s first case, Drayton said. He’s eyeing one-year suspended probation, with a court officer monitoring the youth in school and at home. “Our goal is to keep kids from graduating into the adult system,” he said. “So we want to keep an eye on this kid, because we’ve already seen at-risk behavior.”

Public Defender Jerry Drayton, 66, said local delinquency is symptomatic of a much larger issue in the community -- the effects of living in poverty.
Public Defender Jerry Drayton, 66, said local delinquency is symptomatic of a much larger issue in the community -- the effects of living in poverty.

Drayton, whose salary is paid by the state, is in juvenile court every day of the week. He deals with uncooperative parents, a backbreaking caseload and, perhaps most troubling, a general lack of juvenile indigent defense (JID) funding.

“Right now, I’ve probably got 200 cases,” he said.

Drayton’s struggles are typical among those who work with indigent children. However, he refuses to view his clients as “the problem” -- rather, he believes their actions are symptomatic of a much larger issue within many U.S. communities.


Drayton makes his way through the winding halls of the facility. There’s a sweet aroma throughout the building. Outside the courtroom, several individuals -- almost all of them African-American -- wait, with dour expressions on their faces.

The pre-hearing camaraderie in Judge Steven Teske’s courtroom is amiable. Court appointed advocates in the back of the court update their Facebook statuses on their smartphones, while officers stoically flank the sidelines. Drayton and the court prosecutor have a friendly chit-chat, while one of Drayton’s colleagues thumbs through a large book that has the words “public defenders” scrawled across it in black marker.

Teske enters the chambers, wearing a brown suit with a yellow tie and handkerchief. A new advocate is sworn in before the hearings. The first item of the morning is an update on a deprivation case -- three children in the county foster care system are in need of a new placement. The next is an update on a recent disposition; new case plans for a child with bipolar disorder are discussed.

A small, thin, African-American girl in a denim jacket enters the court. A third party petition for her custody has been dropped. She leaves the court almost as quickly as she enters it.

Next, a young African-American boy enters with his parents. He’s wearing a windbreaker and khakis. Earlier this year, a school resource officer allegedly overheard the boy tell another student that he was going to do a “1-8-7” on him. The prosecutor explains that “1-8-7” is a street term for a homicide.

little_1-01Teske spends several minutes explaining the court process to the young boy. He then discusses the duties of the public defender. “He doesn’t have to please me,” Teske tells the young boy. “He doesn’t work for me … [Drayton] knows I cannot fire him.”

The young boy, Teske said, has gotten into trouble with a local gang. In a prior meeting, Teske said, the youngster informed him he was afraid of entering a “mainstream school.” That fear forces the young man to act “tougher” than he wants to be. The young man and his mother and father are ordered to receive Functional Family Therapy (FFT) services, and the juvenile is appointed a probation officer.

“Pray, be patient, keep working at it,” Teske tells them. They exit the courtroom, and Drayton’s other client enters.

Trial Time

The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.
The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.

The African-American boy is thin and short, and wears a black dress shirt and black dress pants. His father, a very large man, is wearing similar clothing.

The defendant is on trial for battery, loitering and prowling. An officer takes the stand. He recalls talking to the victim after the incident; her eye was swollen, as if she had just been punched.

The defendant places his hand under his chin. He begins to slump ever so slightly in his seat.

Drayton asks a few questions of the officer. The prosecutor objects to one of his inquiries, on the grounds that his question involves hearsay. The objection is sustained.

The victim then takes the stand. “I was hit in the head,” she recalls. She said she was about to enter her place of employment, when she felt a brick-like object connect with the right side of her face. She turned around, and saw three young people backpedaling.

Teske asks her if she sees her attacker in the courtroom. She points at the defendant. She’s “100 percent” confident that’s the boy who hit her.

Drayton huddles with his client for a minute. Then Teske renders his verdict: the boy is “guilty” on all three charges.

Teske tells the boy that if the victim had lost consciousness for even one second, he could have been found guilty of aggravated battery. That charge, Teske said, carries a maximum juvenile sentence of five years.

    “This is your first case,” Teske tells the boy. “I hope it’s your last.”

(Days later, the boy was placed on an “informal contract” -- in exchange for having his charge dismissed, the boy agrees to abide by certain stipulations, which often include not being suspended in school and not hanging around kids who are on probation. If the boy violates any of the contract’s requirements he can be re-sentenced.)


The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.
The Clayton County Youth Development and Justice Center in Jonesboro, Ga. is home to one of the nation's more progressive juvenile court systems.

Drayton is a man who doesn’t like to stay stationary. Even while sitting, he likes to periodically hop up and down in his seat.

“Judge Teske’s really a progressive judge,” he said. “He tries not to lock kids up, he tries not to beat them up because we’ve found all those things don’t work.”

He believes that many of the less-punitive policies implemented by Teske will become more commonplace throughout Georgia following the recent passage of a statewide juvenile code rewrite. But in the face of a strained budget, Drayton says he would like to see more juvenile indigent defense funding across the state.

“I’d like to see the money that the D.A.’s get for hiring experts … I’d like to see some of that come our way,” Drayton said. “Now that we don’t have the money for those psychologists, we’ve got one hand tied behind our back.”

School-related cases are becoming rarer in Clayton County, Drayton said, since most of those cases are now handled outside of court. Residential burglaries and family violence incidents, however, appear to be on the upswing.

Many of the young people Drayton represents, he said, are latchkey children. Their mothers work erratic hours and struggle to support their kids, and many times, the fathers are either in jail or out of the picture altogether. Many families he represents lack automobiles. Some don’t even have telephones.

He reflects on his case from earlier.

“I talked to the victim, and she was adamant about the fact … that he was the one who hit her,” Drayton said. “I’m kind of concerned that you’ve got a 13-year-old who, seemingly, can’t empathize with a victim.”

The “calculated meanness” of the incident, Drayton said, truly disturbs him. Young people living in poverty often find themselves adopting value systems that are less critical of antisocial behaviors, he said.

Then, the usually animated public defender suddenly becomes still.

“The delinquency we are seeing,” he says, “is really a symptom of a disease we’re not treating.”


Long-Awaited Report Reveals New Information on Sandy Hook Shooter

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Ct.
Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Ct.

Nearly a year after the mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of 20 children, officials in Connecticut have released a summary report revealing new details about the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre.

The report, by the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury, was released on Monday. A release date for a much larger Connecticut State Police report, which is expected to run several thousand pages long, has yet to be announced.

The summary paints the most vivid portrait of shooter Adam Lanza to date, confirming that the gunman was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2005. He is described as a young man with an unusual interest in mass shootings, in particular, the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre in Littleton, Colo. Among the items found at his Newton, Conn. residence included a spreadsheet with extensive information on mass murder incidents and numerous clippings pertaining to school shootings.

The report confirms that Lanza and his mother were enrolled in several National Rifle Association (NRA) safety courses. Amid several firearms discovered at the home, investigators found a check signed by Nancy Lanza for her son to purchase a CZ 83 pistol for Christmas.

An avid gamer, Lanza was said to be a fan of both violent video games, such as “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto,” as well as nonviolent fare such as “Super Mario Brothers.“ According to the report, Lanza sometimes spent as much as 10 hours per weekend playing an arcade version of “Dance Dance Revolution” at a nearby movie theater.

Accounts of Lanza fluctuate throughout the report, with some recalling the shooter as an intelligent introvert and others describing him as a reclusive, below-average student. He graduated from Newton High School (NHS) in 2009 via a combination of classes at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) and home schooling sessions. During his time at NHS, he was listed as a “special education student.” Throughout his high school years, the report states that Lanza’s mother was called in response to several non-violent “episodes” involving her son.

As a younger teen, he is described in the report as having “significant social impairments and extreme anxiety.” Throughout his childhood, Lanza was said to exhibit extreme obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies involving touching objects and changing clothing.

In the months leading up to the shooting, the report states that Lanza refused to leave his residence and communicated with his mother solely by e-mail. Lanza’s mother was planning on selling the home and relocating to either North Carolina or Washington. She was also considering purchasing a recreation vehicle (RV) for the move, as Lanza refused to stay at hotels; even during Hurricane Sandy, Lanza refused to leave the home, despite a prolonged power outage.

Lanza was said to be unresponsive to therapies and refused to take medication. A toxicology report reveals that no drugs were in Lanza’s system at the time of the shooting.

The report’s conclusion, however, shies away from giving a definitive answer as to why Lanza embarked upon his murderous rampage last December, or why he selected Sandy Hook as the site.

“What we do know is that the shooter had significant mental health issues that, while not affecting the criminality of the shooter’s mental state for the crimes or his criminal responsibility for them, did affect his ability to live a normal live and interact with others, even those to whom he should have been close,” the report concludes.

“Whether this contributed in any way is unknown. The shooter did not recognize or help himself deal with those issues.”


Trial Begins in Federal Suit Challenging Practice of Housing Juveniles in Florida’s Adult Jails


A federal district judge in Tampa, Fla., heard opening arguments today in a class action lawsuit alleging that juveniles detained at a county jail in central Florida were often mistreated and left in unsafe conditions.

The lawsuit was filed last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on behalf of several young people who were held at the Polk County jail, most of whom were being detained pre-trial. Central to the suit’s claim is a 2011 state law that allows sheriffs to house pre-adjudicated juveniles formerly held in Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) care.

The case, Hughes vs. Judd, focuses on allegations that young people held at the facility were pepper sprayed for disobedience, placed in “harsh isolation conditions” and confined in juvenile dorms without staff present. In addition, the suit claims that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and privatized provider Corizon Health, Inc., failed to provide detained young people with adequate care or a safe environment.

“What we learned once we began meeting with children detained at the jail and meeting with their parents was exactly what we had feared would happen,” Tania Galloni, a SPLC managing attorney, said Friday during a conference call to update members of the press. “That the extent Sheriff Judd was saving money, it was by subjecting these children to harsh, punitive adult jail-like conditions, rather than operating a true juvenile detention center.”

Galloni said that children tried as juveniles were being mistreated. At least five juveniles were placed in isolation for a month in what she described as “incredibly harmful conditions for children to endure.”

The Polk County Sheriff’s department denies the suit’s allegations.

“Our general response is that we’ve been safely housing these juveniles, certainly the bound over ones, for years,” Scott Wilder, director of communications for the Polk County Sheriff’s office, told JJIE. “There is more supervision than they have at virtually any other detention facility, and certainly the Polk County detention facility.”

Wilder said he believes the lawsuit is an attempt by the SPLC to “demonize” the sheriff’s department.

“We’re doing an outstanding job, and we just have a different philosophy than the SPLC has,” Wilder said. “We totally reject the attorney’s viewpoint, we’re totally responsive to our community and we’re going to do a good job keeping these juvenile delinquents in our facility safe and secure, pending judicial outcomes.”