Monday, July 04, 2016

JUSTICE IN AMERICA - Juvenile Offenders

"Should a juvenile sex offender be locked up indefinitely?" PBS NewsHour 6/28/2016


SUMMARY:  Even when they serve their time, sex crime offenders in some states are being held years beyond their release date.  The civil commitment laws that let jailers deem convicts too dangerous to walk free are facing increased scrutiny, especially in Minnesota, where even juvenile sex offenders grow old behind bars.  William Brangham reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  This facility in the rural town of Moose Lake is where Minnesota puts the sex offenders it says are too dangerous to live on the outside.

Twenty-nine-year-old Craig Bolte is one of them.  He’s been locked up for nearly half his life.  It started when he was 15, when he pled guilty to sexually assaulting a younger member of his family, and also admitted to sexual contact with another minor.  He says these were very troubling years for him.

CRAIG BOLTE, Juvenile Sex Offender:  I was sexually abused on numerous occasions as a child when I was a young child, and that is by no means an excuse.  I’m responsible for my actions.  I still hurt people.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Bolte was originally sentenced to three years, but he’s now been behind bars here in Minnesota for 14, locked up with hundreds of rapists, child abusers, and other sex offenders.

They’re all being kept by what’s known as 'civil commitment law,' which allows a state to deem someone an ongoing threat and even after their sentences are served keep them locked up indefinitely.

CRAIG BOLTE:  I have been in for about 10 years now.  All in all, I have been locked up for 14 years, 10 years of it here.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The “PBS NewsHour” was granted rare access to Minnesota’s sex offender program.  We could film interviews inside this one room, but, almost everywhere else, we could only take still photos.  Most everyone agrees that there are people locked up in Minnesota’s program who are very likely to reoffend.  These are people who say they simply cannot control their behavior.

And that concern is why legislatures in 20 states have set up programs like this to hold these people.  But others say these programs also end up snaring juvenile offenders who they argue have no business being held for years past their sentences.

ERIC JANUS, Mitchell Hamline School of Law:  It’s outrageous.  That’s one of the more outrageous features of this program.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Eric Janus is a law professor and longtime critic of Minnesota’s sex offender policies.  He says juvenile sex offenders are almost never the kind of lifetime sexual predator that society needs to worry about.

ERIC JANUS:  Probably a fairly high percentage of adolescent sexual offending is basically due to immaturity and experimentation, and so it’s not deviant sexuality.  It’s not that they are attracted to violent sex or involuntary sex.  It’s that they are immature, and that’s the kind of thing that they will grow out of.

"Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline for young offenders one class at a time" PBS NewsHour 6/29/2016


SUMMARY:  In most states across America, education for teen offenders pales in comparison to what they'd receive on the outside.  Just one third mandate that these kids meet the same standards as their public school counterparts.  Massachusetts is one of them, and there the goal is to save these young offenders with vocational classes and good old reading, writing and arithmetic.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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