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Friday, May 9, 2008

Elmysterio Revealed

BB in his own way has found a picture of me and posted it on his blog. Now the world knows what I look like. Who gave him that picture, and why would some one out me on the blogs.

It looks like the state is taking a interest in Luzerne County

State backs challenge of juvie cases
Agency: Percentage of county kids in away treatment 2 1/2 times the state average.
By Terrie Morgan-Besecker tmorgan@timesleader.comLaw & Order Reporter
WILKES-BARRE – Concerned by what it deems an “unusually high” placement rate for delinquent youths, the state Department of Public Welfare intends to file a legal brief supporting a juvenile advocacy group’s efforts to overturn hundreds Luzerne County juvenile cases, a DPW spokesman said Thursday.
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Matt Jones of DPW said department officials believe the high percentage of youths being placed in out-of-home treatment programs is at least partially tied to an assertion that a disproportionate number appear before Judge Mark Ciavarella without an attorney – the key issue in a court action filed last week by the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia.
Statistics from the Juvenile Court Judges Commission show that Luzerne County’s placement rate was roughly 2 � times the state average for all counties from 2004 to 2006, the latest data available.
In 2006, 24.5 percent of youths who appeared before Ciavarella for hearings were sent to residential treatment programs, according to the commission’s annual report. The statewide average was 10.3 percent. In 2005, 21 percent of Luzerne County youths were placed, compared to 9.6 percent for the state. In 2004, 22 percent were placed, compared to 10.4 percent for the state.
Ciavarella could not be reached for comment Thursday. In prior interviews he has staunchly defended his philosophy on juvenile placements, saying he favors placement over other alternatives because it’s the only thing that will “get a child’s attention.”
That philosophy is now being questioned by DPW, as well as the Juvenile Law Center.
The center last Tuesday filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to intervene in Luzerne County juvenile court proceedings, citing what it believes to be serious violations of a child’s right to due process.
The center took the extraordinary legal action based on statistics that showed 50 percent of youths who appeared before Ciavarella in 2005 and 2006 were not represented by an attorney – 10 times the state average.
Further research showed that nearly 60 percent of those youths were placed in residential treatment programs, the center said. The petition asks the Supreme Court to overturn more than 500 cases in which juveniles appeared without attorneys.
Jones said DPW decided to support the center’s petition because it shares the concern that juveniles’ right to due process may be being violated. DPW expects to file its brief by today or Monday.
“We feel those protections should be provided to those who are adjudicated in Luzerne County. We feel this is at least in part responsible for the high placement rate in Luzerne County,” he said.
DPW has an interest in the placement rate, he said, because the department reimburses counties 50 percent juvenile detention costs, and 60 to 70 percent of the cost for treatment programs.
“We do not regularly monitor placement rates of delinquent youth, but we have been aware for some time that Luzerne County has an unusually high placement rate,” Jones said.
Ciavarella is particularly fond of placing youths in wilderness-type programs. Statistics show that from 2004 to 2006, more than 50 percent of youths who were detained were sent to wilderness programs. That compares to a state average of roughly 10 to 12 percent.
Jones said the DPW first approached county officials about the disparity in placement rates last year. The department has been working with court and probation officials to regarding possible alternatives.
“There are some things we’ve seen work effectively in other counties, such as work programs, mentoring and electronic monitoring, in lieu of incarceration,” Jones said. “We would like to see Luzerne County work with us to consider some alternatives for placement other than the detention center option.”
Ciavarella, who is being represented by attorney Howard Holmes of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, has until the end of next week to file a reply to the center’s petition.
Terrie Morgan-Besecker, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 570-829-7179