D.C. Voting Rights - A League Victory! (Carol Whitesell)
On Other Legislative Concerns...
Juvenile Justice Study: A Detention Report
Final Call to Council
Who and Why of Council
Voter Service Gears Up
Juvenile Justice Study: A Detention Report
(The LW/Hawaii has been observing the Family Court and detention hearings since November on Oahu and Kauai. Hawaii County observations began in February. Below is part of the detention report.)
Juvenile detention is defined as being locked up by authorities as a temporary measure. It is not the same as commitment to a corrections institution.
Who Did the LW See at Oahu's Detention Home? The LWV observers saw nine 17 year olds -- their average age was fifteen. There were a few more boys than girls. The observers could only guess at the juveniles' economic level, but it appeared that 20% were middle class, 33% were lower middle, and almost 50% were at the lower economic rung. Fifty percent of the juveniles were either part-Hawaiian or Caucasian. Another 20% were local cosmopolitans.
Over 33% of the juveniles at the detention home were committed there by the police for law violations. For half the juveniles with detention hearings, the most serious offense was running away from home or being deemed "beyond control" by their parents or social service program -- these are called "status offenders." They usually had a background of this kind of behavior as well as some law violations.
The large number of status offenders at the detention home is a major problem because there is a federal push to not lock up status offenders at all, and certainly to keep the status offenders separated from the law violators. However, instead of reducing the number of status offenders at the detention home, the State Law Enforcement Planning Agency (SLEPA) reports the number had actually increased between 1975 and 1978, whereas the number of law violators at the detention home decreased. In 1977-78, 640 status offenders and 487 law violators were locked up at the detention home. Hawaii's juvenile authorities say the runaways and other status offenders need to have a detention place more than the law violators, because the status offenders are not getting along with their families and have no place else to go.
The Juveniles' Problems. The events leading to the juveniles' detention were overwhelmingly caused by problems stemming from weak families -- rejection of the children; broken homes; sexual and physical abuse. Often, frustrated parents won't accept their children after the children have been in the detention home. Other parents have simply abandoned their youngsters.
Plainly coming down the road is another generation of troubled parents and "throwaway" children, because many of these juveniles are having babies now. From one observer: these pregnant, runaway girls are not taking care of themselves or their babies. "Risk" babies, like the ones these girls will deliver, are already bearing a legacy of social problems.
The juveniles observed by the LWV needed particular help with their emotional problems -- school, substance abuse, and sexuality. A recurring theme from judges and probation officers is that many of these youngsters simply do whatever they want to do anytime they feel like it. They do not say "no" to themselves or submit to control -- internal or external.
The Detention Hearing. Detention facilities are located only on Oahu and Maui, and are operated by the respective Family Courts. Courts on Kauai and Hawaii may detain juveniles at the County Correctional Center (taking care to keep the juveniles separate from the adults housed there) until the juvenile can be transported to Honolulu or Maui.
Upon taking a juvenile into custody, the police, probation officer, and. agency vested with the juvenile's legal custody must immediately notify the juvenile's parents. Any person who brings a juvenile to a detention facility must give notice to the Court, stating the reasons why the juvenile was not released to his/her parents. If the juvenile is admitted to the facility, the court must immediately notify the juvenile's parents of the detention, and of the date, time, and place of the detention hearing.
No juvenile may be detained longer than 48 hours (excluding Sundays and court holidays) without a detention hearing conducted by a judge. The juvenile may be released earlier by a court officer, the director of detention services, or a judge. The one and only purpose of the detention hearing is to decide if the juvenile should continue to be detained. The judge must consider the juvenile's immediate welfare and the community's protection. If the judge decides to detain the juvenile for reasons of welfare or protection, a second detention hearing must be held at the end of a one-week period following the decision, and so forth for each additional week in detention.
Detention is supposed to be short term -- about 8 days. According to SLEPA figures for 1976-77, the average stay at the detention home for all admissions was 7.5 days; for those kept longer than 8 days, the average stay was 26.2 days.
During the LWV observation period, 60% of the juveniles remained at the detention home for varying amounts of time, because the single greatest problem is finding a place for them. About 50% of those juveniles detained after the hearing were awaiting placement.
The next largest group of juveniles were being detained so they would appear at an upcoming court date. A few others were having pressure put on them to improve their behavior by having to stay at the detention home, and a small handful were being protected from a family crisis.