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Ramsey County Attorney’s Office defends early-intervention plan to reform potential repeat offenders

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Ramsey County Attorney’s Office defends early-intervention plan to reform potential repeat offenders

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office wants to take the adversarial sting out of its handling of some juvenile cases in an effort to reform potential repeat offenders earlier.

For the past two years, the office has been experimenting with a different approach to deciding the trajectory of non-violent cases of youth ages 10 to 17.

A three-person team — called the Collaborative Review Team — seeks to gain a holistic view of a juvenile offender before deciding if he should be returned to his family, be referred to a social worker, be referred to a community alternative or be charged with the crime.

“Part of what we’re trying to change as a county is that whatever door you get referred to the county through (social services, justice department, etc.), we want to help,” said Erica Schumacher, the director of strategic initiatives and community relations in the county attorney’s office. “We want to help address these underlying situations instead of it being just about consequences.”

SIXTY-SIX CASES SINCE ITS INCEPTION

Since its inception, the team has processed 66 cases, learning and refining as they go.

One of the lessons learned was that CRT would not be handling aggravated robbery, homicide, criminal sexual or assault cases, officials said. They initially looked at Kendrick Washington’s case in which the 16-year-old was involved in a shooting in May and then in July stole a car that resulted in the death of a dog that was in the vehicle.

“That probably informed some of our early learnings, in that we’re not going to do aggravated robberies,” Schumacher said.

Washington ended up getting charged, pleading guilty to second-degree assault, theft and animal cruelty and was sentenced to detention.

“We had thought that by only focusing on out-of-custody cases, we would eliminate the most complex cases, but we realized that wasn’t necessarily the case,” said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the county attorney’s office.

WHY OFFICIALS SAY CHANGE IS NEEDED

According to the county’s research based on data between 2010 and 2019, 80 percent of youth do not have adult felony charges, but the percent of youth that do rises with increasing contact with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. During that time frame, about 230 youths came back 12 or more times.

Overall, one in five youths who interacted with the Ramsey County justice system went on to commit a felony as an adult, the research says.

“We’ve got kids that were referred 30 and 40 times to the system from the time they were 10 to 17. So, clearly, it’s not working for them,” Schumacher said.

TRADITIONAL VS. CRT

So how is CRT different than the traditional way Ramsey County has dealt with juvenile cases?

“What happened before this process is the prosecutors would charge them all and bring them all into the system,” said Jim Fleming, the county’s chief public defender. “We would run them through like turkeys on a processing line and just spit them out. We’re labeling kids, telling them they’re bad and, guess what, they’re coming back as adults.”

He said the traditional way often means the juvenile is in court months after the crime was committed.

“The wait times are very long. They never actually get to meet the person they’ve harmed. Not everybody gets a trial,” Fleming said. “Maybe the system would work if every case that was put in, we could try it. But in Ramsey County, that’s about 14,000 cases. We’ve only got 29 judges.”

CRT sees the whole picture, rather than just a police report, Schumacher said. And, based on what they know about brain development in juveniles, relationships are key, as is processing the case quickly.

NUANCES OF THE PARADIGM SHIFT

Behind every initiative is an underlying philosophy. The county attorney’s office has spelled out the specifics driving its changes in a document that is several pages long. Here are a few areas where the two approaches differ, with the traditional approach listed first:

  • Decisions based primarily on police report vs. fuller narrative capturing youth’s story and underlying causes of behavior.
  • Judge adjudicates guilt, remains impartial vs. judge has more understanding of underlying dynamics, and problem-solves.
  • Police are go-to to resolve conflict vs. police respond to less, act more as problem solvers.
  • Use of divisive, objectifying, dehumanizing language vs. people-first language.
  • Victim’s needs not addressed until/unless charged vs. those harmed are invited to be part of the process, determine what they need to heal.
  • Actors in system have sole discretion to make decisions vs. actors in system share power with impacted communities.
  • Youth’s behavior seen as character flaw vs. behavior is a cry for help.
  • Public safety is achieved through deterrence vs. safety achieved through connection and social fabric.
  • Fairness achieved through equal consequences vs. fairness achieved through equitable process.
  • Justice achieved by determining guilt vs. justice achieved by determining how to heal through collaborative process.
  • Belief that holding people accountable will change behavior vs. focus on healing from harm.

RESPONSE TO CRITICS

Some of CRT’s loudest detractors are in law enforcement.

“The CRT ‘committee of three’ does not reflect the concerns of law enforcement, the child’s parents, the victims, or the community at large,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a recent letter to the county attorney.

Fleming said Fletcher’s objections are political.

“He wants to make it sound like serious violent-person offenses are going through this process and that is not at all true,” he said.

Some have questioned if what Ramsey County Attorney John Choi is doing is legal.

Robert Small, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, declined to comment specifically on CRT but said, “Prosecutors have wide discretion to seek justice subject to laws, professional responsibilities and the will of the people.”

IS CRT SOFT ON CRIME?

Some cases may involve a firearm but not a violent crime.

Joseph Olson, a former attorney, professor and founder of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, worries CRT could set a bad precedent if it doesn’t punish juveniles caught with an illegal firearm whether or not they used it in a crime.

“The message that gets out to the teens on the street is, it doesn’t cost you anything to carry a gun,” he said.

Fleming said so far, he’s seen a fair balance in the decision making. He knows of five juveniles reviewed by CRT who were certified to be tried as adults for their crimes.

HOW TO MEASURE SUCCESS

How will the county attorney’s office know if it’s succeeded in limiting recidivism?

They will review data, case files and surveys to determine if the youth made meaningful relationships with an adult in his life. This could mean a coach or parent. And, if they were held accountable, did they address or repair the harm they did, and was there a restored sense to the offender for a positive future, said Kara Beckman, a University of Minnesota researcher contracted by the county attorney’s office.

“We’re not going to pretend that this is a magic bullet, but we’re aiming for this to be better than what we currently have,” Beckman said.

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Giants hang on to beat Eagles after Michael Strahan tells impatient Giant fans to ‘appreciate what you got’

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Giants hang on to beat Eagles after Michael Strahan tells impatient Giant fans to ‘appreciate what you got’

During Michael Strahan’s halftime jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday, when the great pass rusher thanked the Mara and Tisch families, a steady chorus of boos got Strahan’s attention.

So he broke from his script to defend the team.

“You know, I gotta say this,” Strahan said, with co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch sitting on the stage behind him. “Every team has their ups and downs, but the New York Giants have won Super Bowls. There are teams that [have] never had enough. Appreciate what you got. We will be back. We will be up again. I guarantee you that.”

The crowd cheered that, and they loved watching Joe Judge’s team justify Strahan’s confidence by hanging on to beat the rival Philadelphia Eagles, 13-7.

Tuesday’s firing of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett did not produce an immediate outburst of points with Freddie Kitchens calling plays on the headset.

But Pat Graham’s defense forced six turnovers. Kitchens’ offense committed none. Daniel Jones hit tight end Chris Myarick with a 1-yard TD pass in the third quarter for a 10-0 lead.

And Philly wideout Jalen Reagor dropped two passes on the game’s final drive, including what might have been the game-winning touchdown on the Eagles’ final play in vain with 15 seconds to play.

Darnay Holmes, Tae Crowder and Xavier McKinney all intercepted Eagles QB Jalen Hurts. Dexter Lawrence forced a fumble by Eagles back Boston Scott into the arms of safety Julian Love late in the fourth quarter up six.

And the Giants’ defense forced two Eagles turnovers on downs, one of which they turned into a 10-play, 59-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Kitchens called plays for Jones to run early and emphasized getting the ball to playmakers in space.

Kenny Golladay failed to haul in a couple end zone jump ball targets with a renewed focus on involving him in the red zone. But he made back-to-back 18-yard catches on the Giants’ fourth quarter field goal drive to create important separation with a 39-yard Graham Gano field goal.

Otherwise the Eagles easily would have forced overtime with a field goal of their own down the stretch.

Love, the Giants’ safety, dropped an interception on Philly’s final drive after Reagor failed to catch a deep throw from Hurts down the left sideline with rookie Aaron Robinson in coverage.

But Reagor returned the favor, posting up Robinson on the goal line in the middle of the field, to seal the Giants’ win.

The Giants (4-7) bounced back from last Monday night’s horrible loss at Tampa, while the Eagles (5-7) faltered after winning three of their previous four to enter the playoff picture.

Judge, Jones and the whole Giants team handled the pressure coming off the Buccaneers embarrassment well. The team played extremely hard, and the defense rose to the challenge. The offensive line was still an atrocious liability, but they did their best to coach around it.

Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Golladay all made explosive plays of 18 yards or more, and while Jones put some passes in harm’s way, including an Engram drop nearly picked off by Avonte Maddox, avoiding turnovers protected their lead.

This doesn’t mean the Giants are out of the woods with their fans just yet.

Sunday was the second time that Mara has heard boos from the home crowd this season.

He was booed loudly during Eli Manning’s halftime jersey retirement in a Week 3 loss to the Falcons.

The Giants haven’t put Mara at a podium on the field since. He wasn’t on the field at all for the 10th anniversary celebration of the 2011 Super Bowl champions during halftime of a Week 6 loss to the Rams.

And while Mara and Tisch sat on the stage for Strahan’s ceremony on Sunday, they were the only people on the stage not introduced to the crowd, and neither owner spoke.

Even Strahan had given the organization a hard time during the week about how long the Giants had waited to retire his No. 92.

“What took you so long?” Strahan had said Wednesday.

That’s what happens when a team loses constantly. Everyone from ownership on down loses the benefit of the doubt.

Still, when Judge’s team plays for him like they did Sunday, and they win, maybe it gets a bit easier for the frustrated fans to keep the faith.

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Aurora school district closes campuses for lunch after shootings

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Aurora school district closes campuses for lunch after shootings

AURORA — After recent shootings involving teens in Aurora, the public school system has decided students will have to stay on campus during lunch break at least for the next several weeks.

All high schools in Aurora will have closed campuses beginning Monday and continuing at least through winter break, an Aurora Public Schools spokesperson told KCNC-TV in Denver.

The announcement was made Saturday at a vigil held at Nome Park, where six students from Aurora Central High School were shot and injured on Nov. 15. Two arrests have been made.

Four days later, three more students were injured in a shooting in the parking lot at Hinkley High School. Three arrests have been made in that case.

Aurora schools will have additional security and mental health support for students when they return to classes after the Thanksgiving break, Superintendent Rico Munn said in a letter to the community.

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Instant Analysis: Miami Dolphins 33, Carolina Panthers 10

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50 Colo. Time dealers, Wells are auto fame inductees

David Furones, Dolphins Writer

This is what the Dolphins look like clicking on all cylinders. Tua Tagovailoa, even without DeVante Parker and Will Fuller, connecting with Jaylen Waddle non-stop. The defense swarming and forcing turnovers. Even special teams is scoring. The momentum is real, and Miami can legitimately reinsert itself into playoff discussion with a few more wins against a favorable upcoming schedule.

Keven Lerner, Assistant Sports Editor

The Dolphins had their most complete effort of the year and they are now 5-7. Tua Tagovailoa played very well and the defense was even better. Wins against the quite-incomplete Giants and Jets would have Miami at .500. Crazy.

Steve Svekis, Assistant Sports Editor

OK … the Dolphins have basically negated the Falcons and Jaguars losses with two wins as a home underdog against the Ravens and Panthers. They are 5-7 and it would be inexcusable for this meteorically rising defense and the truly competent offense to not defeat the visiting Giants and Jets to get to 7-7. Then, they probably would need to sweep the Saints, Titans and Patriots to reach the playoffs. But, more realistic now — and inconceivable four games ago — is a winning season at 9-8. Tua did two big things he hadn’t during this season: didn’t throw a bad interception, and hit Jaylen Waddle in stride deep down the field. Waddle could end up right in the mix for consideration as the best wide receiver in this draft’s loaded wide receiver first round.

This will be updated.

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