ACJP organizer Gail Noble was invited to the Santa Clara County “Beyond the Bench Conference” a convening of juvenile justice court practitioners and advocates. She reports back on the event that both described the uphill battle to bring a new mind frame to youth incarceration, as well as some hopeful signs of changes to come.
By Gail Noble: The Sixth Annual Beyond the Bench Conference Empowering Families, Engaging Parents was held at Saint Claire Hotel Downtown San Jose, February 3, 2012. The conference room was filled with Public Defenders, District Attorneys, Probation Officers, City Council Officials, Community Organizations, and Parents.
The Host of the event Beyond the Bench was Judge Patrick Tondreau, who has been the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Justice System. In the year 2009 Judge Tondreau began to put in motion the concept of the “Model Court.”
Under Judge Tondreau’s supervision his guidelines for Santa Clara County Courts, District Attorneys, and the Probation Officers, work together on all levels to ensure children are treated like children and not adults, for the crime they have committed, less serious crimes, rehabilitation instead of punishment.
Judge Leonard Edwards explained, “Model Court…expresses the collective belief among all participants in the court system that improvements are possible and that everyone will work to ensure that best practices are instituted so that clients will be better served.”
Guest Speakers included, Presiding Judge Tondreau of Juvenile Courts and Supervising Judge of Juvenile Justice Court, Supreme Court, Juvenile Justice Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Founding and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, History Model of Courts, Hon. Leonard Edwards (Ret), Judge-in-Residence, California Administrative Office of the Courts, Hon. Kurt Kumli, Judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, Disproportionate Minority Contact, James R. Bell Founder and Executive Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute.
As a mother and community organizer, the Beyond the Bench Conference gives hope to the damaged, and broken Juvenile Justice System that we all are to familiar with. Just to hear a panel of judges, and law practitioners state a mission to revise the criminal justice system for youths and their families was a powerful step in the right direction.
Judge Tondreau presented the 2011 Juvenile Justice Award for Exemplary Contribution to Family and Youth to Rachel McDaniel of the Santa Clara County Probation Department. He commended her sharing how the extra care Rachel put into her work, is an example we all can follow.
Judge Leonard Edwards was the first guest speaker of the morning, On November 18, 2004, Judge Leonard P. Edwards of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
The Honorable Leonard Edwards, acknowledge the great work Judge Tondreau has been doing to revise the Juvenile Justice System in the five years of him being the Presiding Judge of Juvenile Justice System in San Jose, and was proud to announce that Santa Clara County set the bar for the Model Court in the Nation. “Judge Edwards established one of the country’s first dependency drug treatment courts, and he serves as Lead Judge in San Jose’s Model Court, one of 27 Model Courts around the country participating in NCJFCJ’s Victims Act Model Courts Project.”
The Model Court Project felt the need to change the name of Juvenile Delinquent Criminal Justice System, the term was unacceptable to use in reference to children, so it was renamed the Juvenile Justice System nationwide. New name for a new beginning.
Judge Leonard Edwards, is also the author of Resource Guidelines, which identifies and works with courts willing to implement the Guideline’s recommendations. It is called the model courts because of their commitment to improve their ever changing operations. The lead judges meet frequently with professional and volunteers to plan for changes. The team meets annually to discuss and implement goal that will improve the out come of the court experience for the children and their families. Judge Edwards repeated several times a quote from Margaret Mead 1901-78 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful community citizens can change the world indeed they can”.
James R. Bell, the Director of W.Haywood Burns Institute, for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity, spoke on the increase of incarceration particularly for minorities. “Blacks and Hispanics are filling our jails nationwide,” he stated. The United States has the highest incarceration rate than any country. And its costing us, literally. In 1988 11.7 billion dollars was spent on incarceration, 2008 47.3 billion was spent on incarceration.
“Who is suffering abuse? The Ross Valley Reporter May 12, 2011, reported a 5 year old girl was handcuffed because she had a tantrum in class.” Mr. Bell said. He went onto show a slide of the little girl with her hands behind her back, and cuffed. He also showed a slide of a little boy in the police station, he was too short to stand up to the counter to be fingerprinted, so he was given a crate to stand on. Mr. Bell went on to say, “Primal instrument of social control, lockem up, not examining its negative outcome. We have an overuse of incarceration, with no evidence that this use is effective”. Mr. Bell received a standing ovation for his address.
This was a powerful event, and let us know how far we have come, but more importantly how much farther we need to go. Take a stand for the future of our children and for ourselves.