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Students Sound Off on Georgia Campus Carry Bill

JJIE intern Claire Bohrer experimented with Instagram and Facebook videos, interviewing students at Kennesaw State University on a Georgia bill that would allow some students to carry handguns on campus. The bill is likely to be voted on in the state Senate this week.

Check it out on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you would like to shoot a short video for us, send it to Roger Newton at rnewton@csjournalism.org.

All the Kalief Browders Out There Deserve the Help I Got

I am Kalief Browder.

No, seriously. I am him and he is me. We’re each other. In fact, saying that I’m Mr. Browder does him a disservice because he was a much better kid than I was.

Compared to Mr. Browder I was a terror. At the age of 13, I was already in the streets indulging in a life of illegality, mostly revolving around dealing drugs.

At 16, Mr. Browder was apprehended and charged with robbery for allegedly stealing a backpack. He was facing 15 years if convicted.

Eventually the Bronx district attorney dropped all charges and Browder was freed. Nonetheless, the damage was already done. Browder had been placed at one of the most notorious lockups for about 800 days, where he suffered tremendously at the hands of correction officers and older inmates.

While incarcerated he tried to take his own life numerous times. And being released didn’t end his struggles. In November 2013, six months after being freed from Rikers, he was  hospitalized again following another failed suicide attempt.

On June 6, 2015, after allegedly telling his mother he couldn’t take it anymore, Kalief Browder used an air conditioning cord to hang himself out of his Bronx apartment.

At such a young age, I didn’t have the mental capacity to comprehend the severity of the dangers in my life. Studies have shown that human brains are not fully developed until a person reaches 25. If you place any child in a toxic environment, it’s going to have a lasting and, in Browder’s case, a fatal effect.

In June 2012, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative won a landmark decision in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He argued that it’s unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to die in prison, in part, because their brains are still works in progress.

It is a fact: Their brains are under construction. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, cited the “distinctive attributes of youth” that must be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Some of the attributes Kagan referred to include: limited maturity, underdeveloped sense of responsibility, desire for instant gratification and vulnerability to negative influences — especially when such influences are in a child’s home.

Many things that my 26-year-old mind senses intuitively — things that adults just think of as common sense — teenage minds are simply too underdeveloped to grasp.

New York is one of the only two states in this nation that refuses to recognize such crucial factors. Along with North Carolina, my home state continues to try kids as adults and send them to adult prisons, willfully ignoring the science of the juvenile brain.

As of today, there are thousands of kids incarcerated in adult prisons. These kids, these thousands of Kalief Browders, will never get the chance or the help they need to become productive members of society.

Between the ages of 13 to 15, I was regularly arrested, mostly for minor offenses similar to what brought Browder to Rikers Island. I grew up in an unforgiving environment that was plagued by toxicity.

Growing up, my role models were drug dealers, rappers and athletes. That was all I knew. I didn’t know any working professionals until I got into the system and began to meet them and read about them. I had no educational foundation, and I was inevitably going to end up dead or in prison for life.

The Class D felony that forced Judge Mary O’Donoghue to sentence me occurred a few months shy of my 16th birthday. Fortunately, I was placed in a juvenile justice facility — Boys Town — where the focus was rehabilitation, not punishment.

I needed structure, counseling, education, mentoring and caring adults such as Iza and Damon, the parent teachers who lived there. They focused on helping me even when I made things extremely difficult for them.

Kalief Browder should have had many more chances than I did, especially since he never even committed a crime. His only crime was being poor and black in America.

However, the young man was brutalized in every way possible. He didn’t take his own life. The prosecutor, judge, guards and the system took it from him.

All the Kalief Browders out there didn’t choose the circumstances they were born into. Our society stripped a young man of his humanity simply because he was young, poor and black.

I am the co-founder of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow, Inc. (PLOT), a nonprofit mentoring organization that provides mentors to justice-involved and at-risk youth. I also work with youth in the juvenile justice system.

Along with working on the campaign to raise the age for nonviolent youth offenders, I most recently participated in the President’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing alongside many prominent political leaders. One of the recommendations I made was the need for the New York Police Department to abolish the quota system that incentivizes arrests like the one that landed Mr. Browder at Rikers Island.

New York state has a responsibility to raise the age so we will never have another Kalief Browder. Everyone is responsible for what occurred to this young man and we owe it to his memory to improve the conditions for the thousands of Kalief Browders out there.

A society is only as strong as its most vulnerable people. By that marker, we’re an extremely feeble-minded society. Every child deserves the same chances I was afforded during my darkest days. If we don’t offer that to each and every child, regardless of race or economic status, then we are doomed to witness Mr. Browder’s death again and again. And we will be responsible.

Jim St. Germain is a juvenile justice advocate and the co-founder of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow, a nonprofit mentoring organization.

Gaps in Mental Illness Checks Swallow Juvenile Victims

The family of 19-year-old Ashley Smith says guards watched and did nothing as the young woman strangled herself to death in an Ontario prison cell. Smith spent her teen years in and out of juvenile custody and, once in the adult system, had her mental illness answered by physical abuse, her family alleges in a legal battle to find out more about their daughter’s death. For youth incarcerated in the United States, the mental care they get — or don’t — varies.

“In some places, all of this is really done quite well,” said Preston Elrod, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Eastern Kentucky University and a juvenile justice specialist. “But in other places, none of it is done well.”

About 70 percent of young people who come into an institution have a diagnosable mental health disorder or symptoms of one, according to Gina Vincent, a psychiatry professor from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in a 2012 report about screening and assessment in juvenile justice systems.

Rules vary by state, though in many places, children will not stay in the juvenile detention system, receiving what juvenile-tailored services exist, as long as Smith did: her 18th birthday. New York, for example, treats all defendants aged 16 and older as adults, no matter the offense.

“A large percentage of young people that come into institutions are experiencing things like anxiety and depression. Acute depression is particularly problematic for girls,” said Elrod.

Nationwide, about a dozen young people died every year from 2002 to 2005 in state juvenile correctional facilities, according to the latest available federal statistics. Most were aged 16 or 17, and nearly half died by their own hand.

One way to make psychiatric diagnoses of young people is to employ psychologists at all points of entry into the justice system, including probation offices, detention facilities and child welfare agencies, wrote Vincent.

“The problem with this approach is that it would be extremely costly given that approximately two million youth are arrested each year, of which more than 600,000 are processed through juvenile detention centers,” she continued.

“It’s a system that has never been appropriately resourced,” said Elrod.

Back in Canada, Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada, saw videos of Smith in the months before her 2007 suicide. “There are 160 use-of-force incidents over the 11 and a half months Ashley Smith was in [adult] federal custody,” he told TV show "Question Period."

A pair of videos made public in the Smith court case show the woman, apparently calm, being strapped into an airplane seat with duct tape. In another, a prostrate Smith is drugged against her will.

Her suicide prompted Sapers’ department to look at deaths in custody, where they saw “sadly similar” patterns to the Smith case. In a 2011 report, he advised tailoring policies for mentally ill inmates.

Since then, he said, there have been some good hires and good training on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada. “But some of the lessons learned have been ignored.”

A coroner’s inquest into Smith’s death is ongoing.

UC Berkeley Occupy Protestors Clash with Police, Call for Student Strike

Occupy protestors at the University of California in Berkeley, birthplace of the Freedom of Speech Movement in the 1960s, twice clashed with police Wednesday while trying to establish an encampment on campus. As seen in the video below, campus police hit students with batons while attempting to disperse the crowd. The Demonstrators linked arms while police pushed them back. Protestors are now accusing police of using excessive force.

Occupy protests are taking places in numerous cities in California, with the most violence occurring in nearby Oakland where protesters have clashed with police.

On Friday, Occupy protestors at Berkeley called for students to walk out of class Tuesday as part of a general strike in opposition of funding cuts to education, according to The San Jose Mercury News.

Meanwhile, Occupy protestors have voted not to erect a camp at Berkeley for the time being.

Judge Who Beat Daughter Says He Did Nothing Wrong

A Texas judge who was caught on video beating his daughter says he was simply disciplining his then 17-year-old.

"In my mind, I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing," Judge William Adams told a Corpus Christi television station. "And I did lose my temper, but I've since apologized."

The video of Adams, 51, appeared on the Internet after the daughter, Hillary Adams, uploaded it.

Hillary Adams, now 23, told the Associated Press that she has since had mixed feelings about making the video public.

"I'm experiencing some regret,” she told the AP, “because I just pulled the covers off my own father's misbehavior after so many people thought he was such a good person … But so many people are also telling me I did the right thing."

Adams added, however, that she has received an outpouring of support since uploading the video.

The video shows William Adams lashing his daughter 17 times with a belt while scolding her and at one point threatening to beat her into submission.

The younger Adams told NBC’s Today Show that the lashing was not unusual, but “happened regularly for a period of time.”

As a result of the video, the police in Aransas County, Texas, have started an investigation to determine if Judge Adams was guilty of any wrongdoing.

 

Two Teens Charged With Hate Crimes in McDonald’s Transgender Beating

A Maryland grand jury has handed down hate-crime charges in the beating of a transgender woman at a McDonald’s outside Baltimore.

The April 24 incident has gotten national attention, in part because an employee shot a video of the incident and posted it online.

From the Associated Press

Teonna Brown, 18, was indicted Monday on assault and hate crime charges in the attack on Chrissy Lee Polis at the restaurant last month. She is also charged with assaulting a customer and a McDonald’s employee who tried to intervene. A 14-year-old girl is facing the same charges in juvenile court. The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles charged with crimes.

Much of the publicity about the attack has focused on the fact that some McDonald’s employees and customers simply watched while Chrissy Lee Polis was beaten, kicked in the head and dragged across the floor by her hair. An employee even laughed while shooting the video, and another worker tried to help the attackers to leave so they would not get caught.

The contents of this video contain disturbing images.

 

April 15, 2011



Read up:

Bullying May Cause Long-term Social Anxiety, Study Finds:
http://bit.ly/dontBULLYmice

Celebrities Leverage Online Video to Combat Child Sex Trafficking:
http://bit.ly/realMENreadJJIE

Georgia's Failure to Enter Interstate Compact for Juveniles a "Serious Problem," Judge Says:
http://bit.ly/judge2gov

Host: Ryan Schill
Multimedia: Clay Duda

Celebrities Leverage Online Video to Combat Child Sex Trafficking

The Demi and Ashton (DNA) Foundation recently launched a high-profile online video initiative to fight child sex trafficking. The series "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" features major celebrity appearances by names like Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake, and even Pete Cashmore - founder of the social media news site Mashable.com.

The interactive campaign encourages users to submit their own "Real Man" video - using the slogans "I am a Real Man" or "I prefer a Real Man" - and upload them to the DNA Foundation's Facebook fanpage. In the video above, Isaiah Mustafa (commonly known as "The Old Spice Guy") and Mashable founder Pete Cashmore tip their hat to the cause.

According to the DNA Foundation, the videos - and the organization itself - aim "to raise awareness about child sex slavery, change the cultural stereotypes that facilitate this horrific problem, and rehabilitate innocent victims." Many of the videos take a quirky and often funny look on what it means to be a "Real Man" while attempting to address a serious issue.

According to the DNA Foundation's website:

  • 12.3 million people are enslaved today worldwide.
  • In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation eradicating slavery, yet more than one million people are enslaved in the U.S. today.
  • Two million children are bought and sold in the global commercial sex trade.
  • The average age of entry into commercial sex slavery in the United States is 13 years old.
  • The global sex slavery market generates $32 billion in profits each year.
  • Every ten minutes, a woman or child is trafficked into the United States for forced labor.
  • Most “johns” are quite ordinary: 70-90 percent are married, and most are employed with no criminal record.
  • 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls are conducted via the internet.
  • The U.S. government spends 300 times more money per year to fight drug trafficking than it does to fight human trafficking.
  • Approximately 55 percent of girls living on the streets in the United States engage in commercial sex slavery. Girls from middle and upper class neighborhoods are also at risk.

A Mashable article about the video series has already been shared more than 1,600 times across the social web. Mashable's esteem -along with a star-studded line up and DNA Foundations 43,000 Facebook friends - may be just the vehicle Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher needed to foster mainstream awareness.