As reported by nj.com, unruly juveniles housed at any of the state’s facilities for young offenders are entitled to a hearing before they are transferred to a state prison, a state appeals court panel ruled yesterday. Teens under the jurisdiction of the state Juvenile Justice Commission need more than same-day notice of the transfer, the court said.
“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,” Judge Alexander Waugh Jr. wrote for the three-member panel. The decision reverses the November 4, 2011 transfer of a Cumberland County resident, identified fictitiously in the 28-page decision as Jones, to South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton and requires Juvenile Justice Commission staff to give him a hearing for a chance to contest the transfer.
A juvenile when he committed his crimes, Jones was 18 when he was sent first to a JJC facility in Yardville in January 2011 and then to a medium-security facility in Bordentown where he had several disciplinary infractions, including assaulting staff. Without his knowledge, JJC staff decided to transfer him to state prison, as allowed by law. But the court noted he was not notified of the review, the JJC’s recommendation and approval for transfer or the Department of Corrections’ approval to accept him. On the day of the transfer, he was not permitted to call his mother, who was not notified of his relocation for several days. The decision, which also included Judges Mary Catherine Cuff and Marie Lihotz, noted neither his attorney nor the family court judge who sentenced him to up to four years in a juvenile facility was notified.
The state’s Juvenile Justice Code, which took effect in 1983, was intended to involve family more in a juvenile’s case and use discipline not as harsh or rigid as prison for juveniles with less serious offenses.