Tag Archives: Youth

Restorative Justice Becomes Law

New legislation happened quietly this year in Washington that affects the juvenile justice system. I knew it was happening, but the legislators I work with wanted to keep it quiet. Sometimes, when a light shines on legislation, people stop doing the right thing and do what they think is politically correct to be re-elected.

The new legislation can be found here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/2906-S.PL.pdf

The most important part of the legislation may be the addition of restorative justice as an alternative to secure detention:

“Community-based rehabilitation” means one or more of the following: Employment; attendance of information classes; literacy classes; counseling, outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, outpatient mental health programs, anger management classes, education or outpatient treatment programs to prevent animal cruelty, or other services including, when appropriate, restorative justice programs; or attendance at school or other educational programs appropriate for the juvenile as determined by the school district.”

Previously, restorative justice had restricted access. This opens it up for local municipalities to make their own judgment regarding what is good rehabilitation. It also defines restorative justice:

“Restorative justice” means practices, policies, and programs informed by and sensitive to the needs of crime victims that are designed to encourage offenders to accept responsibility for repairing the harm caused by their offense by providing safe and supportive opportunities for voluntary participation and communication between the victim, the offender, their families, and relevant community members.”

This is a big deal. Restorative justice is now codified in Washington state law!

We owe a great deal of thanks to Rep. Roger Goodman for being a tireless advocate of restorative justice. You can send a note of thanks via his assistant at: Derek.Zable@leg.wa.gov


Current Legislation in Olympia regarding Juveniles

Bill No. Description Thoughts
SHB 2746 Concerning mental health and chemical dependency treatment for juvenile offenders Adds residential treatment options for substance abuse and mental health issues to be considered “punishment” for a juvenile crime if a whole bunch of people including therapists agree that mental health or addiction is the root cause.


SB 6524 Addressing factors to be considered when sentencing youth in adult criminal court for crimes committed as minors Allows adult courts to consider mitigating factors that are not available for “adults” in adult court so that an “exceptional sentence below the standard range” may be applied if the judge so decides.


SHB 2906 Strengthening opportunities for the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders


Note: This is nearly the same as SSB 6529. The main difference is it originates in the House.

Adds rehabilitation and reintegration as a purpose of juvenile detention to the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977.


Eliminates mandatory motor vehicle related fines


Gives prosecutors discretion regarding filing youth violence against family members as an official domestic violence complaint


Eliminates the requirement that courts notify DOL of juvenile offenses


Requires the court to defer disposition whenever they are eligible except in cases of animal cruelty.


SSB 6529 Strengthening opportunities for the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders


Note: This is nearly the same as SHB 2906. The main difference is it originates in the Senate.

Requires the court to defer disposition whenever they are eligible except in cases of animal cruelty. If the juvenile makes the motion.


Gives prosecutors discretion regarding filing youth violence against family members as an official domestic violence complaint. Also eliminates mandatory arrest in youth DV situations.


Eliminates mandatory motor vehicle related fines


Eliminates the requirement that courts notify DOL of juvenile offenses


Adds rehabilitation and reintegration as a purpose of juvenile detention to the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977.


SB 6365 Establishing a lower age limit for discretionary decline hearings in juvenile court Establishes a minimum age for discretionary decline at 14 from non-existent. i.e. any age can currently be charged as an adult.


Responsible Gun Ownership in Washington

The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition endorses the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s efforts to reduce gun violence by running an initiative on universal background checks (Initiative 594).

Universal Background Checks

We all agree that violent criminals and other threats to society should not possess firearms. That’s why licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks on all their sales. However, there is a hole in our laws that allow criminals and other dangerous people to go to “private sellers” at gun shows, on the Internet, and elsewhere to buy guns with no background check and no questions asked. Law enforcement agencies and public safety officials agree that this loophole promotes illegal gun trafficking and enables individuals with criminal intent to purchase firearms. This initiative will simply ensure that a background check is conducted for every gun purchase.

The time to act is now. The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition stands with the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

If you would like to endorse I594, please visit the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

Groundbreaking and Celebration!

Mentors in Mission Logo                         Join us!

Community Garden Groundbreaking Ceremony
Saturday, March 29th 9:00 am-3pm


Rainier Beach United Methodist Church
5500 South Roxbury Street

Come plant seeds to support our youth. 

RSVP on Facebook

The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition is a group of like- minded individuals and churches that seek to provide services, in a faith-based context, to youth affected by incarceration.  We are launching our new Mentors in Mission program  in partnership with Rainier Beach UMC which is designed to bring local mentors together with youth around gardening and mentoring.

Active Listening Methods

flickr photo by Wes Peck cc licensed (BYNC ND )
flickr photo by Wes Peck
cc licensed (BY NC ND )

Active listening is:

  • Hearing what the person says
  • Identifying and labeling the feelings a speaker experiences
  • Listening for undercurrent feelings not explicitly expressed by the speaker
  • Recognizing personal values and personal history revealed in conversation
  • Being empathetic, not sympathetic. Truly try to understand how the other person might be feeling without being judgmental. Your youth doesn’t want pity, but does want to feel like you understand, even if you can’t specifically relate the situation to your own life.

Some verbal response techniques for active listening include:

  • Paraphrases: Restatements of the speaker’s feeling or meaning in your own words. Paraphrases help against miscommunication and can clarify feelings.
    • “So, what I’m hearing you say is the security guard accused you of stealing the shirt, and called you a liar when you said it was paid for.”
  • Feeling reflections: Statements that focus on the emotions or feelings you observe in the speaker. This validates emotions.
    • “It sounds like you were angry when the guard accused you of stealing the shirt.”
  • Clarifications: Questions or comments to elicit more information from the speaker and to double-check your and the speaker’s understanding of the problem.
    • “And you said this happened yesterday?”
  • Neutral statements: Brief verbal responses that show the speaker that you are following the conversation.
    • “Mmhm. Gotcha. Then what?”
  • Summaries: Organizing statements that capture the speaker’s emotions and concerns concisely. A summary helps integrate the information you’ve heard, leads to new directions in conversation, and helps wrap up a listening session.
    • “Let me see if I understand you correctly. You feel thios situation is unfair and your first reaction was to get angry.”

Some non-verbal queues in active listening include:

  • Look the person in the eye. Good eye contact shows that you are paying attention and take the conversation seriously. Watching the speaker also lets you read thje speaker’s body language, which may say a lot about how she feels.
  • Use natural posture. Be relaxed. Slouching, resting your head on your hands or crossing your arms on your chest can signal boredom, fatigue, or restlessness.
  • Sit in a helping position. If you sit across from a person with a table in between, you may put yourself in an “oppositional” stance. Sit at an angle and lean slightly towards (but don’t crowd out!) your youth.

Adapted from the Work Group for Community Health and Development Community Tool Box, 2013. “Building Youth Mentor Relationships.” Available at http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/youth-mentoring/build-mentor-relationships/main 

Youth Opportunities Act

The Youth Opportunities Act (HB 1651) is sitting in the House Rules Committee. We are hoping it will move to the House Floor today, and be ready for a vote in the next few days. It is very important that we get as many representatives to vote for it as possible. Overwhelming support shows that it is a priority that the Senate must take seriously. Bills that do not get voted out of the House by Tuesday are dead.


So, please take a moment today to contact Representatives and urge a yes vote when HB 1651 reaches the floor. House Republicans are especially critical for this vote, so we would suggest you focus your efforts on them if your time is limited. PLEASE NOTE: We have attached a letter from the a national conservative policy organization, Right on Crime, which explains why the YOA is good fiscal and public safety policy. Please feel free to quote from it or use it however you feel useful.


The list of House members are here: https://dlr.leg.wa.gov/MemberEmail/Default.aspx?Chamber=H. You can send them emails directly from this page.


In addition, please see this article in the Seattle Medium by Ed Prince, the Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, about the YOA: http://seattlemedium.com/the-youth-opportunities-act/.  And again, please feel free to refer to this excellent Crosscut series on the YOA: http://crosscut.com/2014/01/27/rights-ethics/118384/washingtons-never-ending-punishment-of-juveniles/

How much do dropouts cost us?

Claudia Rowe, January 3, 2014, The Seattle Times Blog

Plenty of educators opine vaguely about the costs to society when a student drops out of school. But in 2011, an economist and professor of public policy at Columbia University dug into the numbers to tally the actual dollar figures, and they are stunning.

Of 40 million Americans between 16 and 24, about 6.7 million are neither in school nor employed. About half are high school droupouts; the others may have a GED. All are underemployed, if they work at all.

To taxpayers, each of these so-called “opportunity youths” imposes a lifetime cost of about $235,680 in welfare payments, food stamp, criminal justice and medical care. Multiply that across the full 6.7 million cohort and the hit is nearly incomprehensible: $1.6 trillion.

“The economic consequences of opportunity youth are enormous,” write authors Clive Belfield, Henry Levin and Rachel Rosen in “The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth,” which was published in 2011.

Because they are far more likely to be in jail, use welfare or live on food stamps, each youth costs us about $13,890 each year. That’s a lot more than the $5,000 Washington state spends per student in the public schools.

But policy-makers in Olympia have come up with a promising answer, a way to get our 30,000 youngest dropouts back on track and save state taxpayers billions of dollars.

Stay tuned for more on that in the next full-length Education Lab story, coming later this month. In the meantime, consider the implications of failing to act.

Young people who drop out of school make only $4,000 a year – if they can find work at all – contributing about $750 to public coffers. Others in their age group, while hardly commanding princely sums, earn an average $13,900 annually and pay $2,400 in taxes. Resulting taxes that opportunity youth could be contributing: $11.3 billion each year.

“These numbers show how much is being squandered,” the authors write.

The crush only mounts from there: more criminal activity, more use of welfare and food stamps. More Medicaid.

Consider that 63 percent of all youth crime nationally is committed by kids who have dropped out of school or failed to find a way into higher education. Their incarceration and court costs saddle us with a $76.7 billion annual bill – not including the financial hit to their victims in medical care, lost work time or insurance adjustments.

For welfare and food stamps, the pattern is predictable: Opportunity youth receive $9,660 more in lifetime welfare payments than those who graduate from high school, for an aggregate annual burden of $65.1 billion.

You get the picture.

Of course, kids who drop out of school do, technically, represent a certain savings on education spending, though you can almost hear the researchers wincing as they note this.

“Emphatically, the future burden of opportunity youth is far greater than the immediate burden,” they note. “That is, the real economic loss from opportunity youth is that these youth will not progress through adulthood being economically independent. The immediate burden is approximately one-quarter of the full burden.”

Thoughts About Juvenile Law in WA State

This is a quandary in Washington state and is wrapped up in state constitutional protections, law, and what we consider being in the best interest of the state and it is something I’m working with and am perplexed at this moment in time. It makes for great thought, I think…

In Washington state, public records are open constitutionally. This includes youth records. Technically including kids arrested, gone through dependency hearings, etc. (abused kids could find their records plastered all over). The way it works right now is that youth can work to seal their records over time as long as they accomplish a checklist. This is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped because data/electronics means the records are out there. PLUS, Washington state sells the youth records to background check firms while they are still minors.

There is support in both houses to make youth records confidential. Confidentiality is better than sealing because it shuts the door before the horse is out. Sealing shuts the door afterwards.

But in order to make youth records confidential, the IT system has to be updated to accommodate some change in the record in the database that doesn’t make sense to me because making another field in a database really isn’t that hard. BUT whatever, the fiscal note is that it would take $500,000 do make an IT adjustment to attach to the confidential record bill that is currently in play. This would also, according to the IT people, stop the current and planned upgrade in its tracks and put all the IT people onto this problem and not on the upgrade.

There is thoughts of tweaking the bill to do the confidentiality thing but to implement in 5 years.

All in all, this is making me nuts. It seems so simple. (1) Don’t sell youth records. (2) Let’s just treat kids like kids and make their records confidential.

The upshot is that to make the lives and opportunities of youth that are in the most marginalized group (impoverished, undereducated, incarcerated), we could simply make their records confidential so it is easier for them to get a job and to get into college.

The interesting points, now that you’ve slogged through my current issue (and you thought be a chaplain was all spiritual God stuff!):

Where do we draw the line of competing interests such as state/child? And where does it stop being a “state” interest (open records) and it is being transformed into a “corporate” interest (credit bureaus, rental agencies, and newspapers are buying the records)? Is there a difference between state interests and corporate interests? Do you have an assumption that youth’s records are protected?

Where should the line be drawn?