From Brewer to Arpaio, No One's Listening to the Experts About How to Save Money or Protect Civil Rights and Public Safety When It Comes to Juvenile Corrections

It must be incredibly demoralizing to be a juvenile-justice-reform advocate in Maricopa County these days.

The governor's made official her plan to close the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, sending about 500 kids incarcerated by the state to the counties, thus cutting roughly $63 million from her budget.

The vast majority of these kids are from Maricopa County, placing the largest burden here. County officials immediately began complaining that they can't afford to take the kids — all except one official, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who announced he'd happily take all 500 at no extra charge to anyone.

jamie peachey

No one worth his salt wants Arpaio to have the kids, for obvious reasons — like his terrible record with adults. And it's hard to take him seriously, considering that every other sheriff in the state has signed a letter to the governor refusing to take this on.

So who will? Clearly the Governor's Office has some more work to do — if only from a public relations standpoint. Don Stapley, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, wrote to legislative leaders this week complaining that, as stakeholders, county officials weren't invited to the table to discuss the logistics of making these kids the counties' obligation. (Hard to know where she stands, since the Governor's Office didn't respond to a request for comment for this story.)

Part of the problem is that no one in a position of authority seems to know what sorts of kids they're really dealing with here — much less how to help them.

Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick describes the population at the ADJC as "dangerous," but the truth is that only about 15 percent placed in ADJC facilities in 2009 were there for violent crimes, according to court statistics. (The rest violated probation or were convicted of misdemeanors or felony property crimes.) At least twice that number are seriously mentally ill and, by the department's own admission, do not belong in secure facilities. The system is ill and it's making sick kids sicker.

That's the danger. And, by and large, it's one best addressed, the experts agree, by community-based programs and therapy provided outside a locked facility. Judges need to be educated — perhaps a daunting task but one far less expensive than locking kids up and throwing away the key.

From Beth Rosenberg at the Children's Action Alliance to Anne Ronan at the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest to Brad Snyder — a Scottsdale-based, nationally recognized expert in the gathering of juvenile justice data and behaviors of adolescents — the advocates and experts are here. And they have ideas that would neither put dangerous hoods back on the streets nor create a Tent City Jr.

Their ideas do not include allowing Arizona's system to continue as is.

"There is no data to suggest that the ADJC, or any other youth authority in the United States, deters crimes," Snyder says. "In fact, data suggest that juvenile justice involvement is a predictor of future juvenile-justice involvement."

The examples of smart, safe, cost-effective juvenile-justice reform are all over — from a decades-old effort in Massachusetts to recent innovations in Kansas and Missouri. Even Pima County has taken part in a national program that has cut in half the number of kids it sends to correctional facilities, thereby saving a tremendous amount of money.

This seems the perfect time — a time when, for once, leaders in this state are discussing juvenile corrections — to embark on reform.

And yet Rosenberg, whose organization sent the governor a detailed letter on the topic, sounds defeated already.

"Unfortunately, I am not certain anyone is listening or really cares about real reform in the good sense of the word," she commented earlier this week.

Instead, the governor's trying to play Hot Potato by passing costs to other government entities, and here in Maricopa County, this is just one more reason for the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors to engage in battle. Too bad. But that's just part of Arizona's rich history when it comes to juvenile corrections failures.


It costs millions of dollars a year to incarcerate youth in Arizona. Add to that, dear taxpayer, the amount it's cost the federal government to investigate the ADJC for civil rights abuses over the past few decades.

In 1987, Johnson vs. Upchurch led to years of litigation and investigation, and eventually federally mandated and monitored changes at the ADJC, which had kept one boy in solitary confinement for weeks.

For a while, according to advocates and employees at the time, things got better. That didn't last. But the ADJC — which has for some reason never attracted the attention of many outsiders, including the governor and state legislators responsible for its funding — flew under the radar for years.

A couple of anonymous tips from employees led to a New Times investigation in 2001, which let loose an avalanche of records detailing abuses: the continued inappropriate use of solitary confinement, poor healthcare, substandard education, lack of training for employees, physical and sexual abuse of kids by staff — and more.

Coincidentally, around the same time the stories appeared, there were three successful suicide attempts. The deaths accelerated a process that had already begun and led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
13 comments
NO to school-to-prison pipelin
NO to school-to-prison pipelin

NO to PRIVATIZING INCARCERATION....... This horror tale is despicable and the tip of the iceberg.......excerpt: "Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC....."

NO to school to prison pipelin
NO to school to prison pipelin

Arizona privatizing prisons and incarceration.... and see where it's headed?

"Two Pennsylvania Judges Accused Of Jailing Kids For Millions Of Dollars In Kickbacks MICHAEL RUBINKAM AND MARYCLAIRE DALE | February 11, 2009 06:16 PM EST | Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months at a youth wilderness camp because his friend was caught shoplifting DVDs, poses for a photograph in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. The northeastern Pennsylvania judge who sentenced Kruger and thousands of other youths and another judge has been charged with pocketing millions of dollars to send kids to privately owned youth detention centers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses. The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench. In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. "I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC....."

NO leadership in Arizona!
NO leadership in Arizona!

Arizona's goal is to incarcerate rather than educate. Shortsighted led by Sen. Pearce followed by his lemmings and the governor who follows his lead. Truly disgusting.

Citizen Taxpayer
Citizen Taxpayer

Average cost per inmate in 2008 per year in CA= $35,587. Tuition to Harvard University for a year= $32,557. Choice, as is keep spending, funding the revolving prison door churning out criminals that become worse because they are just warehoused in inhumane conditions. Or, we can educate and rehabilitate at a lower cost and end the madness. As it stands, it's like we are giving prisoners fish, instead of teaching them how to fish.

"I believe people don't realize how close they are to going to jail" -Street Poet Monte Smith

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

After this story went to press, some "progress" was made -- apparently the governor and legislature decided to put the plan on hold. The counties are forking over some money and things will likely remain status quo -- for a while. This is by no means a good thing. But it does give the state/counties time to consider the advocates' advice. Will they?

Concerned Mother
Concerned Mother

Juvenile corrections is a complete failure. Get these kids into vocational training, education and rehabilitation with the money -- not warehousing children and turning them into hardened criminals who will one day be back on the streets. The shortsighted legislators have created a monster. They have the responsibility to repair the damage.

edit needed
edit needed

PNT tech person: formatting help is needed in the comments, the comments are running together with no paragraphs.

Justice Seeker
Justice Seeker

Arizona privatizing prisons and incarceration.... and see where it's headed?

Two Pennsylvania Judges Accused Of Jailing Kids For Millions Of Dollars In KickbacksMICHAEL RUBINKAM AND MARYCLAIRE DALE | February 11, 2009 06:16 PM EST |

Kurt Kruger, who spent three days in juvenile detention and another four months at a youth wilderness camp because his friend was caught shoplifting DVDs, poses for a photograph in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. The northeastern Pennsylvania judge who sentenced Kruger and thousands of other youths and another judge has been charged with pocketing millions of dollars to send kids to privately owned youth detention centers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles' records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Story continues below Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County's juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, "I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame." Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts _ a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million _ was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

"Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands," he said. "These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies."

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters' constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups' worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

"I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?" said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

Laurene Transue said Ciavarella "was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children."

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn't know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

"Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed," said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

"I got a raw deal, and yeah, it's not fair," he said, "but now it's 100 times bigger than me."

Arizona a decaying state
Arizona a decaying state

Using children as commodities for $$$'s is a disgrace. And you wonder why Arizona is a failed state -- this is the tip of the sick iceberg controlled by the true "abusers" under the guise of "saving the children".

Where is the public outcry? Gerchick needs to take some training and intern by living in the Hell-holes of Arizona's jails and prison, and take the Legislators with her. Then maybe, we might see some real change!

Disgraceful Arizona!
Disgraceful Arizona!

"To be fair, in many ways, Arizona's juvenile-corrections system was set up for failure. It's widely acknowledged that incarceration — at least, the way the ADJC does it — simply does not work. Nor is it appropriate for the population."

The Arizona Legislature and those who receive Federal grants to perpetuate failed policies and agencies are the true criminals. These experts gave you their reports and you've chosen to turn a blind eye while you pad your pockets, personal agendas and are beholden to the special interests that "control" Arizona.

Peoriaman
Peoriaman

So I wonder what the success rate of these juvenil's have been recently. Success rate 90%; 70% or even 5%? Probably the later if we consider the success rate of other establishments, such as our expensive and failing school system. Hear that sucking sound? Got milked?

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...