The judge is about to sentence him to 24 hours of community service, urinalysis tests, and a probation term — typical for first offenders — when boom.

"Have you taken any alcohol or illegal drugs in the last 24 hours?" Kemp asks the boy.

"Yes," Daniel says. "I smoked weed last night."

The county’s main Juvenile Court is in an out-of-the-way complex in south Phoenix.
Michael Ratcliff
The county’s main Juvenile Court is in an out-of-the-way complex in south Phoenix.
Presiding juvenile judge Eileen Willett has overseen tens of thousands of kids' cases on her watch.
Michael Ratcliff
Presiding juvenile judge Eileen Willett has overseen tens of thousands of kids' cases on her watch.

The judge leans forward and says, "Excuse me?"

Prosecutor Herb Kalish, one of few veterans from the County Attorney's Office assigned to Juvenile Court, speaks up.

"Knowing he was coming to court today, I think it's safe to say this juvenile has a problem," he says.

Kalish asks Judge Kemp to hold a 30-day jail sentence over Daniel's head until the boy completes a full year on probation.

"What you did was not exactly a great thing to do, to put it mildly," the judge tells him. "I'm wondering, what are your plans for this summer?"

"Nothing," Daniel replies, shrugging and pulling on oversized jeans that are barely hanging onto his hips.

"What's going on here, Mom?" the judge asks Daniel's mother.

"Me?" she replies. "Oh. I thought he was going to summer school, but I guess he changed his mind."

Kemp just shakes his head.

Half a dozen fourth- and fifth-graders from west Phoenix's P.T. Coe Elementary School are observing with two of their counselors.

"What a punk," a little girl whispers to one of the counselors, who nods in agreement.

The judge releases Daniel to his mother but does go along with prosecutor Kalish's suggestion of a deferred jail sentence.

The boy will have to serve time only if he flunks probation, which certainly seems possible.

The judge also orders Daniel to take an immediate drug test with a probation officer. In the hall, Daniel's mother questions the need for the test since he's already owned up to smoking pot.

"Why don't they just get him some help instead of treating him like a criminal?" says the woman, adding that she has a 19-year-old daughter "who is doing fine, and she used to be a mess, too."

New Times asks the woman why she does not insist that Daniel attend school or, perhaps, find work.

"He's never gotten into anything," she replies, put off by the question. "He got kicked out of the alternative school they sent him to. His father is a creep. He's never had anyone but my brother to be like a dad. But my brother doesn't have time to mess with him anymore."

Back inside the courtroom, the judge is about to order a 161/2-year-old incorrigible to juvenile prison.

The boy, Ralph, isn't violent, just a drug abuser and a thief (he first got caught as a 14-year-old driving a stolen car, though he blamed an older boy for actually hot-wiring the vehicle).

His probable last chance of staying free was success in the intensive probation program, in which court officials monitor juveniles extremely closely.

These hyper-vigilant officers are at the core of the county's delinquency system, and judges usually follow their recommendations and counsel.

Many of the roughly 800 kids on intensive probation in Maricopa County have to wear electronic ankle bracelets that alert authorities if the kids are not where they are supposed to be.

Ralph was wearing a bracelet, but the unemployed school dropout apparently tired of being stuck inside his home. He took a chance that the bracelet would not work and cut it off. That's a crime.

But the device worked, and Ralph now is in custody at the Durango complex.

The judge asks Ralph what he has to say.

"I need to take meds for my bipolar, Judge," the youth musters.

Kemp tells Ralph that he is going to send him to Adobe Mountain, a state lockup for juveniles.

"I know this isn't going to be easy for you," he says, "but it's not happening for you out here."

Ralph's mother (the boy has no father present, which is commonplace in Juvenile Court) seems resigned to the situation and says little.

Ralph begins to cry as a detention officer leads him out of the courtroom and back to his cell.

Finally, bailiff Lena Hertel calls Malika's mother into court.

Glaring at everyone, Malika shuffles in through a side door in handcuffs and shackles.

On this day, she is one of 203 juveniles in custody at the Durango detention facility, a full house.

Malika is 12, but looks years older.

She sits at the defendant's table between her quietly weeping mother and her court-appointed attorney. No other family members are in court.

Judge Kemp peers at the girl's file and nods to himself. He had placed Malika on probation just a few months earlier after she admitted beating up a neighbor girl and then stealing her bicycle.

Malika threatened her mother with a kitchen knife just weeks after the judge had sent her home. Though no one got hurt, the incident scared Malika's mom enough to inform a probation officer, which was how the girl ended up back in court.

Elise Herman, a rookie prosecutor, asks the judge to keep Malika locked up because she "is a danger to others, and probably to herself, at this point in her life."

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7 comments
friedland_law_center
friedland_law_center

Friedland Law Centeris a setup of trained mitigators work extensively with all major banks to reach resolutions on mortgage modifications and foreclosure matters.i strongly recommend to get their services.

friedland_law_center
friedland_law_center

Friedland Law Centeris a setup of trained mitigators work extensively with all major banks to reach resolutions on mortgage modifications and foreclosure matters.i strongly recommend to get their services.

mara siegel
mara siegel

Paul,

Just reread your article.

The article made me angry( as I am on a daly basis in Juv Ct) that St John's Christian R had to plead guilty yesterday to avoid Andy & Az Draconian Juvie transfer mandates.

A Hobson's choice for a 9 yr incompetent child to make.

I have been clandestinely advising behind as I am aMaricopa County Juv Public Defender, prohibited fr doing Pro Bono work o/side of the office. Call me if interested in case & its national ramifications

Mara Siegel602 320-7691

mara siegel
mara siegel

Paul,

Just reread your article.

The article made me angry( as I am on a daly basis in Juv Ct) that St John's Christian R had to plead guilty yesterday to avoid Andy & Az Draconian Juvie transfer mandates.

A Hobson's choice for a 9 yr incompetent child to make.

I have been clandestinely advising behind as I am aMaricopa County Juv Public Defender, prohibited fr doing Pro Bono work o/side of the office. Call me if interested in case & its national ramifications

Mara Siegel602 320-7691

Juvenile's Rights
Juvenile's Rights

This should give the public an idea of what is going on in the juvenile and family courts:

Editorial: Judges SentencedKids for cash

The setting is Pennsylvania coal country, but it's a story right out of Dickens' grim 19th-century landscape: Two of Luzerne County's most senior judges on Monday were accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks.

The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement.

They're alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators.

When a federal judge reviews their plea, though, the question ought to be whether the punishment is adequate - along with the judges being bounced from the bench, disbarred, and losing their pensions.

If the allegations are true, Ciavarella and Conahan were involved in a disgraceful cabal far worse than one that merely lined their pockets.First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.Many of the kids were railroaded, according to allegations lodged with the state Supreme Court last year by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group.

In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left "both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized," center lawyers said.

"Very few people would stand up" to the Luzerne judges, according to the law center's executive director, Robert G. Schwartz.Fortunately, Juvenile Law Center was willing to do so, along with backing from state Attorney General Tom Corbett's office and the state Department of Public Welfare.

The blind justices on the state's high court, though, took a pass. Only last month, they offered no explanation in declining to take up the law center's request that the court step up.

Now, the state Supreme Court should revisit the issue, since the scope of corruption alleged at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre could further undermine confidence in the courts statewide.Authorities need to redress running roughshod over juveniles' rights - a process also likely to bring damage suits. While the local district attorney pledges to "do our best to right the situation," this calls for an independent, outside review.

The two judges' downfall may have rooted out the worst perpetrators of this evil scheme, but the abuse of power alleged in Luzerne County is so startling that it should send shock waves for reform around the state court system.

Andrew
Andrew

Just read the story; throughout I wondered "what did my parents do that these 'parents' didn't". I am not a parent myself, but it is obvious that my parents parented. They encouraged me in my education, went to PTA meetings and other such parent-teacher meetings, helped me schoolwork, got me educational material no matter what the cost (including a computer system, back in 1984, which led to me being a software developer and robotics enthusiast today). My dad has since passed away, and my wife and I take care of mother at our home now (dementia is a helluva thing). Parents need to take care of their kids, so that one day, hopefully, the kids can take care of their parents.

 
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