The Supreme Court held 6-3 in Montgomery v. Louisiana that juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without parole before Miller v. Alabama (2012) was decided may have their sentences reviewed. In Miller v. Alabama the Court held that a juvenile may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole “absent consideration of the juvenile’s special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile sentencing.” The Court suggested that rather than relitigating sentences states may allow relevant juvenile offenders to be eligible for parole.      

Each year, millions of students are removed from their classrooms for disciplinary reasons, mostly for minor discretionary offenses. Disciplinary removals may be appropriate in situations in which a student poses an immediate safety risk to himself/herself or others on a school campus. But when such removals are administered for minor misconduct, they are often detrimental to students’ academic and behavioral progress. Research, including the groundbreaking Breaking Schools’ Rules study conducted by The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, demonstrates that exclusionary disciplinary actions increase a student’s likelihood of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. A disproportionately large percentage of disciplined students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In response, states across the country are passing legislation that limits the number of students who are removed from school for disciplinary reasons and provides more supportive responses to misbehavior. In 2014, the CSG Justice Center also released the School Discipline Consensus Report, which provides state and local government officials with a comprehensive roadmap for overhauling their approach to school discipline.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, or JJDPA, contains provisions that limit detention, mandate service provision and provide guidelines for status offenders who violate a valid court order, or VCO. And over the past several years, many states have passed additional legislation to decriminalize status offenses—crimes that are only illegal because of the offender’s age. A wide range of behaviors may be considered status offenses (laws related to status offenses vary by state), including truancy, running away from home, curfew violations, being beyond a parent or guardian’s control, and underage consumption of alcohol or tobacco. Some states have integrated status offender changes into larger juvenile justice reform legislation.

In 2012 in Miller v. Alabama the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states may not mandate that juvenile offenders be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In Montgomery v. Louisiana the Court will decide whether Miller is retroactive; that is, whether it should apply to those convicted before the case was decided. 

This case will be decided next term (by the end of June 2016).  The Court agreed to hear a case raising the exact same issue, also from Louisiana, this term.   Toca v. Louisiana was dismissed when George Toca was released from prison after pleading guilty to two counts of armed robbery in exchange for his murder conviction being vacated.   

The CSG Justice Center, in partnership with Texas A&M University, released a study commissioned by Texas state leaders interested in understanding the impact of the state's reforms of its juvenile justice system. This unprecedented study compares the impact on youth under community supervision versus incarceration in state correctional facilities. Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms, which draws on an unprecedented dataset of 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, shows youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21 percent more likely to be rearrested than those who remain under supervision closer to home. When they do reoffend, data show that youth released from state-run secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth who are under community supervision.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Strict adherence to the American principle of separation of powers should not stop members of the three branches of state government from coming together to improve child welfare and juvenile justice services to vulnerable children. That was the feeling at a panel discussion Aug. 13 at the CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference moderated by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta.

A report released this week by The Council of State Governments Justice Center details more than 60 evidence-based recommendations on how states and communities can make their schools safer and help students succeed. "The School Discipline Consensus Report" is the result of a three-year effort involving a 100-member working group comprised of experts in the field of school safety, behavioral health, juvenile justice, social services, law enforcement and child welfare.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a comprehensive report providing school leaders and state and local government officials more than 60 recommendations for overhauling their approach to school discipline. The recommendations focus on improving conditions for learning for all students and staff, strengthening responses to student’s behavioral health needs, tailoring school-police partnerships, and minimizing students’ involvement with the juvenile justice system.

On July 21, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a collaborative project to encourage effective disciplinary practices that help make classrooms safer and more conducive to learning. It will also promote evidence-based practices that reduce the likelihood that students disciplined at school will have subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. The initiative was announced at the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, whose membership includes representatives from 12 federal agencies.

Texas Rep. Jerry Madden, chair of the Texas House Corrections Committee, believes prisoners come in two varieties: “The ones we’re afraid of and the ones we’re mad at.”  He believes students facing discipline in schools fall in those same categories. The problem, he said Tuesday, is that schools often use the same disciplinary action for both categories of students.

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