Here's what we emailed out the week of June 30, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.
Connecticut became the latest state to legalize marijuana, becoming the 19th state to do so. The new bill was signed into law last week, allowing anyone over 21 to possess and consume marijuana beginning on July 1. With legislative changes taking over headlines, today we’re focusing our attention on laws that affect children for better and for worse.
First-of-its-kind legislation bans cops from lying to kids to obtain false confessions
Fri Jun 25
Why would someone admit to a crime they didn’t commit? In most parts of the U.S., cops are free to use deception in interrogation, a major part of the 74-year-old Reid Technique. The technique is a nine step process where guilt is presumed and deception and coercion are encouraged in extracting a confession — and it’s the most common method in the U.S.
When officers use it on kids, these kids are up to three times more likely to falsely confess to a crime compared to adults. And even if it’s later found that the child was lied to by police, a 1969 Supreme Court ruling says that’s not enough to overturn an already admitted confession. All this has amounted to some drastic consequences.
- In 1991, then 16-year-old Huwe Burton was falsely convicted of the murder of his mother. He wrongfully spent 19 years in prison as a result.
- In 1995, four teenagers were questioned for hours about a brutal rape they had never heard of, each ultimately admitting guilt after officers told them they’d walk free if they did. They were exonerated 20 years later after DNA evidence linked the crime to a serial rapist.
- Cases like these also affect taypayers heavily, such as the $60M in legal payouts Illinois had to make for false rape convictions in 1995.
Now, Illinois is the first state to prohibit cops from lying to kids during interrogations. Similar legislation passed in Oregon a week later and is being considered in New York. Meanwhile California enacted a law in September requiring an attorney speak with suspects under 18 before an interrogation can begin. This is currently not required anywhere else, keeping protection of kids limited against sudden police pressure.
Some additional resources...
- Full coverage: Vice
- The Reid Technique: NYU Law Review
- Oregon’s bill and Huwe Burton’s case: Innocence Project
- Illinois’ bill and false teen rape convictions: WBEZ
- Children interrogated without guardians present: The Appeal
- Illinois is on a roll with first-of-its kind legislation, recently becoming the first state to require AAPI history: Below the Fold
Over 37,000 children in Florida have been inappropriately forced into psych hospitals
Wed Jun 23
After a Florida teacher mistook a child's drawing of a rocket for male genitalia, the 8-year-old was handcuffed and taken for an involuntary psychiatric exam. At least 1,216 kids have been similarly mishandled in Palm Beach County alone since 2016. How?
- In 1972, the Baker Act was enacted to strengthen civil rights protections for people with mental illness. Celebrated then for its progressiveness, the bill provided care for loved ones without losing them to a state hospital and included an involuntary examination process only as a last resort.
- Flashforward to 2017 and the bill was updated for kids, requiring they be seen within 12 hours of suspicious behavior (versus the three days allowed for adults) and creating a new task force for increased use of the Baker Act on children.
- Now, new reports show over 37,000 kids are forcibly taken each year without parental consent and kept for 72 hours during which they undergo traumatic examinations, creating lasting mental health issues for simply being misunderstood or misbehaving in a manner that could be treated in a less-restrictive setting.
While the law prohibits using the Baker Act in cases where the child does not pose a significant threat or has a developmental disability, a report finds these children were “Baker Acted” anyways — even if parents had previously informed the school of their child’s disability. This illegal use of the law has disproportionately affected students of color, swelled the pipeline of students going from school to jail, and has dramatically increased the presence of police in schools (which reports show only worsens all these problems). Opponents of the law say Florida should focus on increasing school psychologists in schools instead.
Some additional resources...
- Recent coverage: Vice
- Report on Florida’s excessive use of Baker Act: Southern Poverty Law Center
- Baker Act’s dangerous evolution: Tampa Bay Times
ASCII OF THE WEEK
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Connecticut knows weed be good together.
Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive