In Pennsylvania, the hate crime category is seldom utilized. However, a recent case that involved a teen facing assault charges has turned into a different situation altogether. Now a ninth grade student faces charges of ethnic hate crimes.
When a young person is charged with a crime, a lot can be at stake. This is especially the case when prosecutors attempt to have the youth certified to be tried as an adult. While the juvenile justice system generally incorporates an understanding of the need for rehabilitation and assistance, the criminal system operates on a different set of assumptions. These assumptions do not always fit for the young, who are still developing.
Bullying is a big issue in our schools nowadays, or at least an issue that has been receiving increased attention in recent years. Part of the reason for this is, no doubt, that schools are anxious to address behavioral and social issues early on so as to avoid escalation and school violence. Bullies, of course, are unfortunately often able to fly below the radar, sometimes leaving the victim without much response to teachers and school authorities.
A high school sophomore in Pennsylvania was taken into custody after authorities found more than 80 packets of heroin and more than $700 in his backpack on the school premises, police say. The police superintendent reported that they typically see juvenile crimes involving pills or pot and added that he hadn't seen heroin at the high school before.
Three former students are accused of damaging Youngsville High School during the weekend of June 15 to 16. The officials describe the damage as almost 30 computer monitors in the computer lab and walls in other rooms painted with spray paint. Some of the spray painted images were graphic in nature.
Many states, including Pennsylvania, have strict laws regarding juvenile offenders, but have recently developed new laws and standards for youth brought up on criminal charges. The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill in May 2013 that would make it possible for a number of juvenile offenders, including individuals charged with murder and sexual assault, to have a chance at parole. State representatives developed the bill in response to a Supreme Court decision restricting state legislatures from developing mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. If the bill goes into law, Connecticut becomes the fifth state to enact a law in response to the Supreme Court decision.
A juvenile male escaped from the George Junior Republic Juvenile Detention Center in Pennsylvania and was captured on April 8 but not before he supposedly took a $3.49 bag of cheesy, crunchy snacks from a local super grocery store. He escaped from the facility by hiding near a tree. However, staff from the detention center found him at the large chain store and took him back to the facility. The facility did not specify what juvenile crimes originally brought him there. The Cheetos snacks claim to lighten up any day, according to the Frito-Lay website.
In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected mandatory sentencing laws for juveniles in Pennsylvania and other states. The highest court in the land declared that keeping juveniles in custody for life without parole for homicide convictions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment as outlined in the Eighth Amendment. Almost 2,500 juveniles are serving life sentences nationally; of these, 480, or almost 20 percent, call Pennsylvania home. The remaining juveniles reside in facilities in 28 other states. The legal decision might impact two Lackawanna County men who were convicted of violent juvenile crimes. In 1981, one man was convicted of shooting two small children and sentenced to two life sentences. The other man, a gang member, participated in an execution shooting, a robbery and another shooting that resulted in serious injuries to the victim. He also received a sentence of life in prison without parole plus several additional years.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently examining a challenge against sentencing juvenile offenders to life sentences without the possibility of parole. The court's decision would have a major impact on the sentencing guidelines imposed on Pennsylvania's judges. Our state has sentenced more than 440 juvenile delinquents to life in jail; more than any other state.
A boy was found delinquent in the killing of a 26-year old woman and her unborn child. In juvenile court, finding a minor delinquent is the same as a guilty verdict. The boy, now 14 years old, was 11 when he shot them with a shotgun. The judge conducted the trial behind closed doors, allowing only close family members into the courtroom because of the young age of the accused when he committed the crime.