United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana •
Our lawsuit alleges that OJJ's insufficient response to COVID-19 is punishment rather than rehabilitation and places confined youth at substantial risk of serious physical, mental, developmental, and emotional harm. We allege that OJJ has failed to implement CDC recommended social distancing, proper sanitation, and hygiene practices or to reduce the population of confined youth to effectively limit the spread of COVID-19 within the facilities.
Amici argued that, in order to comply with fundamental fairness and a youth's due process rights, a juvenile sex offender registrant's classification cannot extend beyond the child's disposition when the juvenile court fails to conduct a juvenile registrant's end-of-disposition hearing at the time the juvenile completes treatment. Our brief further articulated that registering children into adulthood harms system-involved youth and does not increase public safety.
Juvenile Law Center, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project and DLA Piper filed a King’s Bench Petition in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of all Pennsylvania youth currently held in juvenile detention centers, county jails, or longer term correctional or residential placements during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our letter urged the court to allow the appeal because, despite a plea of guilty, children retain the right to appeal amenability proceedings for three reasons: (1) a child is not an adult criminal defendant, (2) an amenability proceeding is uniquely important and cannot be “bargained away,” and (3) a sentencing judge lacks jurisdiction to sentence a child as an adult barring a legal amenability hearing.
Our brief argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's requirement for a meaningful opportunity for release creates an identifiable liberty interest in parole for all juvenile offenders, and the Due Process Clause requires procedural protections, including the appointment of counsel in parole hearings, when such a liberty interest is at stake.
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