Monday, 29 September 2014

The Kids for Cash scandal

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.: “The Kids for Cash scandal was a wakeup call for our justice system. We simply cannot accept a system that puts non-violent youth offenders on a on a path to a lifetime of incarceration. This legislation will take appropriate steps to reform the juvenile system, make it smarter, more just and fairer” Find out why Kids For Cash the movie has become a movement for change. Watch. Learn. Take Action.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The US throws 100,000 children into adult jails and prisons every year -...

Every year in the United States, an estimated 250,000 children under the age of 18 are tried, sentenced or imprisoned as adults. And of these, around 100,000 actually end up in adult jails and prisons, with many spending time in solitary confinement. This is despite the fact that the US Supreme Court has agreed that children are less deserving of blame than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption. While the United Nations says that children who commit crimes should be placed in a closed facility as a measure of last resort. We take a closer look.

Center for Investigative Reporting's article on solitary confinement:

Private Prisons: How US corporations make money from locking you up:

Monday, 25 August 2014

The True Cost Of Juvenile Justice: Life On GPS

In this video commentary, 16-year-old Manuel Velazquez shares the experience of a day in court, waiting to find out if he will get his GPS monitor taken off. This video is a part of Youth Radio's special coverage, Double Charged: The True Cost of Juvenile Justice, a year-long investigation into the U.S juvenile justice system and its impact on low-income youth and their families.

For full coverage please visit:

Produced by: Denise Tejada, Chaz Hubbard
Filmed by: Chaz Hubbard, Michael Prizmich
Editors: Luis Flores, Chaz Hubbard
Music by: Luis Flores

SB 260: Don’t deny yourself a chance at life

by Kevin Curley
There may be hope after all. Back in 1995, I was a juvenile, tried as an adult, tried and convicted of first degree murder. Everything in my case attracted corruption from the LAPD – not allowing my mother to be present in the interrogating room to me being railroaded and unjustly convicted to 35 years to life from the case I caught in October 1995.
Prisoner's shadow behind barsThe public pretender, who rode a 10-speed in a suit carrying a suitcase to each and every court hearing, did not properly put up a fight to the courts, juvenile or adult. He should have argued the issues of whether I was thinking on an adult level or a juvenile level when the crime occurred and whether a crime occurred at all.
The public pretender never challenged my maturity level – I was 17 years old when arrested – to show if I should have been fit for my case to be bound over to adult court. It’s obvious I lost, and now here I sit 18½ years later, still serving the 35-life sentence, 25 for murder and 10 for an enhancement.
You can say I kind of lost hope at another chance at freedom. But new hope was found after catching many RVR115s (rules violation reports) and sitting on over 400 points . (Points are “based on the prisoner’s background, sentence length and any prior misbehavior in jail or prison,” according to Prison Law Office, and determine his security level assignment – Level IV, the highest level, for 60 points or more. – ed.)
On June 9, 2014, at 6:00 p.m., I was sitting in the cell in Ad-Seg putting finishing touches on a book I wrote, going over a letter from this husband and wife explaining to me they will not be able to assist me on putting my urban book together to start it up so I can self-publish. But I did not let that knock the wind out of me. Everybody has a dream.
Let’s just say my dream somewhat became real when I received a letter from a Human Rights Watch attorney explaining to me Senate Bill 260, which became part of the Penal Code effective Jan. 1, 2014. It’s called California Youth Offenders Parole, Penal Code Sections 3041, 3046, 3051 and 4801.
The new youth offender parole process in this new law applies to people who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed their crime, were tried as adults and sentenced to life or a determinate sentence. Reading this new law, I found it clearly explains that starting from Jan. 1, 2014, the parole board was given 18 months, until July 1, 2015, to catch up on the backlog of hearings (PC 3051(I)).

I received a letter from a Human Rights Watch attorney explaining to me Senate Bill 260, which became part of the Penal Code effective Jan. 1, 2014. It’s called California Youth Offenders Parole.

I share this news with all people, especially those adults once found unfit for juvenile court who were tried as adults, being I was tried as an adult and fell into the trap of prison and so-called keeping it “gangsta.” When anyone is placed in a corrupt world to have to survive and protect yourself, you will easily be lured into fitting into a lifestyle that has no meaning. In prison, being dedicated to the streets and the homies only attracts negative attention.
No one really held my hand walking me through this prison b.s. It was something easily adapted to, attracted by the violence, but I learned that trying to fit in with the “Joneses” only digs yourself a deeper hole. But who is to blame?
I never wanted to become anyone’s fool or victim. When all odds are against you, being caged and oppressed by the boys in green and in blue, you create an identity. There’s no education, vocational programs or anything to pull people together on Level 4. We stay 180 yards away from paying attention to each other.
You can’t make one mistake, following the nonsense of most of these cats in here. Not being able to create a life other than claiming a street owned by the state, they will continue to be owned by the government.
When you are foolish and ignorant you will follow anything, and if and when you find yourself in this dump called prison, for the 90 percent good you do, the 10 percent bad will outweigh it all. No rules are being followed in here on both sides. All you really witness is men trying to impress each other.
They know what’s on “Big Brother” and who was sent home on “Survivor,” but they can’t tell you what’s going on in the reality show of life. It sickens me to follow behind a cancer, because it grew on me. Growing up without a father is a sad thing to have experienced, because the older homies of the ghettos were also misguided, being that they also came from broken homes.
I dug deep and really tried to find myself. A light switched on in my head when I received a letter from my mother while in the L.A. County Jail. A cat put his hands on her and she defended herself. The dude ended up in a coma, and after a year of being in the coma the victim’s family pulled the plug on him.
My moms was tried for the murder, lost the trial and was sentenced to 15 years to life. I was housed in High Desert State Prison at the time, really letting the time do me, and boy was it beating my butt in a five month Ad-Seg stay, being validated as being part of a disruptive group known as the Crips.
I racked up too many points and rode hard on the infested slime balls in green. I caught over 16 RVR115s by biting on their cowardly acts of being tough toward me while I’m behind cell doors and cuffed, sitting with the emotions of my mother going through concrete beat-downs.
I began questioning myself. I was never able to cry or complain. Emotions weren’t my friend, and the reality check of thinking about not having anything good my moms and family could say about me, or some sort of life achievement they could be proud of, whupped my butt.
So I sat with my thoughts and wrote. I apologized to my mama and sister for not listening and came to understand the real talk from both as well as the discipline. To the homies I was just a memory. But to family I was kidnapped and jacked of my innocence.
There was never any meeting on the turf explaining that death and prison can become an end result from being in love with the streets. But I cheated on them.
As I sleep with prison, I think hard now on whether I can have a future out of the concrete temptations. This SB 260 law states I will need to get an education, take classes or participate in groups, develop some sort of personal growth, ground myself, show maturity on an adult level, stay connected to positive family and friends on the outside, stay away from trouble, RVR115s, 128s, push negativity to the side and create a sincere me.

The law and SB 260, California youth offender parole, gives hope to us prisoners who were juveniles tried as adults.

People can get the SB 260 law at to learn more, and prisoners can get the case law and guide from any prison law library and from Prison Law Office. An associate, Haki, gave me a book called “From Miseducation to Education.” In it I read, “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.”
When I read that, after Haki asked me who I was and I couldn’t answer his question, I put knowledge and education before everything to be able to identify with the real me and to break away from the slang use of the “N” word with every sentence and the “you know what I mean” and “you know what I’m saying” after every sentence. How could anyone know what I am saying if I don’t understand me?
The law and SB 260, California youth offender parole, gives hope to us prisoners who were juveniles tried as adults. I request that all of you wanting to go home get the prisoner’s guide, read it – heck, study it – allowing a fire to be lit under your butt to get into life making good changes. The homies will be there and others will come.
If keeping it “gangsta” put you in prison and others under the dirt, I request you grab another chance at life and hope and pray the board don’t keep their foot on your neck. Don’t deny yourselves a chance at life.
Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Curley, K-46348, SVSP, D2-112L, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960. A guide to SB 260 for prisoners and their loved ones and the law itself are available at

Thursday, 26 June 2014


Capping a year of reporting about teens held in solitary confinement, The Center for Investigative Reporting is releasing our documentary "Alone," which can now be seen on our YouTube channel, The I Files.

This follows stories we've done in print, for broadcast on the PBS NewsHour, as part of CIR's new "Reveal" radio show, and in an animation ("The Box") and graphic novel.

With the publication or broadcast of each version of our reporting, we have seen the issue of teenage solitary confinement become part of a growing national debate.

In May, after more than a year of lobbying by youth advocates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to end the excessive use of solitary confinement on juvenile inmates.

CIR began investigating the solitary confinement of teenagers in prisons, jails and juvenile halls across the U.S. in March 2013. Juvenile justice experts had been pressing the Department of Justice to flex its muscle on behalf of young inmates, to no avail. Holder's shop declined all interview requests by CIR.

Our reporting quickly zeroed in on Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in New York City, where last year about a quarter of juvenile inmates were held in isolation for 23 hours a day. We spent almost a year requesting to see Rikers' teen solitary units, but the city's Department of Correction denied them, as did officials at Cook County jail in Chicago and five county jails in Florida. We figured out quickly that juvenile solitary was an often secretive practice, largely unregulated and rampant in most states.

Our investigation early on pointed to thousands of American teenagers held in solitary every day. We wanted to show what that looked like and how it affected kids. We talked to criminal justice experts in California who said virtually every juvenile hall in the state used some form of prolonged isolation.

That's when we remembered Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall. Covering juvenile justice over the years, Trey Bundy had heard again and again that officials in Santa Cruz had created a model that had reduced the use of isolation so much that corrections officials around the country routinely traveled to California's Central Coast to see how they did it.

Santa Cruz Chief Probation Officer Fernando Giraldo, and Sara Ryan, the hall's superintendent, allowed us to film inside their facility for five days, unescorted, and talk to anyone we wanted. Our resulting documentary, "Alone," toggles between New York City and Santa Cruz, where young people tell their own stories of isolation and how the justice system can do better.

Now that Holder has said he wants to end excessive solitary for youth, we'll keep watching for changes. In the meantime, watch "Alone" and see for yourself what it's like for kids in isolation and how one facility is trying to keep them out.

"Alone" was produced Daffodil Altan. It was reported by Altan and Trey Bundy, edited by David Ritsher and Andrew Gersh, and filmed by Marco Villalobos. The senior producer was Stephen Talbot. The executive producer was Susanne Reber.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Description A number of ongoing initiatives of the OECS Juvenile Justice Reform Project are bearing fruit. The project seeks to strengthen the existing Juvenile Justice Systems of the Six (6) independent member States through the application of several reform measures. 

More from Adhara King

LaShunda Hill on Growing Leaders in Juvenile Justice Reform

This month, we spoke with LaShunda Hill, state strategist at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (an NJJN Partner). She is a fellow in NJJN's Youth Justice Leadership Institute (, a year-long program that aims to create a more effective foundation for the juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well-trained and well-prepared advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies. 

(NOTE: the Connecticut legislation Ms. Hill speaks about at 1:30did not, unfortunately, pass in 2014.)