Are Juveniles Entitled to a Hearing in New Jersey?

Yesterday, a New Jersey Court of Appeals panel decided that juveniles who have been convicted of a crime and are housed at juvenile offender facilities should have a hearing before they are transferred to State prison due to behavioral problems.  The hearings will be heard by members of the Juvenile Justice Commission and the juvenile will be able to contest the transfer request, either on their own or through an attorney.

Previously, juveniles who were deemed to be ‘unruly’ and were being detained at any of New Jersey’s juvenile detention centers could be transferred to a State Prison for adults as soon the same day that their conduct was determined to be a nuisance.

The case came before the panel from the Court of Appeals because of a 2011 decision involving a Vineland, NJ teenager who was transferred to South Woods State Prison.  That juvenile had been arrested and convicted of a crime as a juvenile.  He was transferred to a medium security prison in Bordertown when he turned 18.  During his time at that facility, he was cited for assaulting a staff member as well as other documented discipline problems.

The Juvenile Justice Commission decided that because of his actions, he was better suited to be in an adult, State prison. The legal transfer documents were drafted up, approved by the Department of Corrections, and the (now adult) juvenile offender was transferred to South Woods Prison.  The original suit contends that on the day that the transfer was going to occur, the inmate was not allowed to call his mother, attorney, the judge who had originally sentenced him, or anyone else.  His attorney and family were both notified about the transfer several days later.  His original sentence did not include any time to be served at a State prison.

Rehabilitation vs. punishment for juvenile offenders

In a statement made by Judge Alexander Waugh, Jr., the judge cites the need to rehabilitate juvenile offenders rather than punish and push them into a system where they may become more hardened and more difficult to rehabilitate back into society.

“The transfer of a juvenile to an adult prison significantly changes the focus of the incarceration away from rehabilitation and toward security and punishment. For those reasons, we conclude that there must be a sufficient level of procedural due process to protect the juvenile’s interests”

There is a clearly stated goal of New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission to ‘assist youthful offenders to achieve successful reentry back to their communities through a network of support services and personal skill development that strengthens their levels of self-sufficiency.’  The Commission and Juvenile Justice Code were enacted in 1983 to use discipline and rehabilitation which were both stated as not intended to be as harsh as the State’s prison system.

Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have a family member or loved one who has been arrested, charged, or sentenced in relation to a criminal juvenile charge, contact us today. Joseph Lombardo will work ensure that the rights of your loved one are protected and that they are afforded the best possible defense and if necessary, sentencing.  Mr. Lombardo will meet with you personally in a free initial consultation to explain the charges and what you can expect.

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