Wyoming Liberty Group
During my research into non-judicial approaches to promoting good juvenile behavior, I discovered a tool which is currently very popular nationwide. Is this an appropriate tool in Wyoming? The findings are mixed and I’ll share what I found on both sides of the issue.
As we have been exploring together in recent weeks, the proposed decriminalization of status offenses in Wyoming will be positive change for our juvenile justice system. This needed change will also leave several problem behaviors in justice limbo.
From truancy to tobacco and alcohol consumption the status offense behaviors are dangerous and destructive to our youth, their families and our communities. Our challenge as a community is to come up with non-criminal alternatives which effectively deter the behavior. This way we can encourage our legislators to continue the decriminalization of status offenses secure in the knowledge that there are more appropriate deterrents in place.
Last week I wrote about some trends in truancy laws and how truancy fits into the status offense decriminalization issues for Wyoming. Although most legislators with whom I speak about status crimes and other juvenile justice issues are well informed, I still run into people who are unaware that Wyoming regularly jails status offenders or really what status offenses are. In short form, status offenses are actions that would not be considered criminal if done by an adult. Truancy is a relatively easy one to understand since adults do not have anyone requiring them to attend school.
MADISON, WI — Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its ruling in “The John Doe Cases,” an appeal consolidating numerous cases relating to a secret investigation of numerous political groups and citizens in the state. In its ruling, the court accepted a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Wyoming Liberty Group and agreed with the brief’s argument that the Wisconsin law in question is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.
In a recent Law Commentary article out of Texas, Research Associate Jason Snead of the Heritage Foundation highlights an anticipated change in Texas’ truancy laws. According to the article, Texas has prosecuted over 100,000 juveniles for Class C misdemeanors merely for truancy. Although my own research completely contradicts Mr. Snead’s contention that Texas was one of only two states prosecuting children for truancy, his article accurately highlights some of the ludicrous contradictions that we see in juvenile justice issues all the time.
When Kim Love, owner of Sheridan Media, took out a radio ad attacking Wyoming Rep. Mark Jennings through the organization Citizens for Good Government (CGG) a few weeks ago, political advertising hit a low point. The ad states:
There’s a philosophy here in Wyoming known as ‘the Wyoming Way.’ State Representative Mark Jennings and his supporters thing the Wyoming Way is to strap someone to the front of a pickup truck and to play chicken while the person is strapped to the pickup because that person is gay, or that it is the Wyoming Way to put feces in someone’s lunchbox because that person is gay. But that is not the Wyoming Way. If you see Mark Jennings, tell him that isn’t the Wyoming Way. Paid for by Citizens for Good Government.
The United States Supreme Court unanimously struck down a town’s sign regulations in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona because the regulations violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. In so doing, the Court reminded Americans and their local governments that First Amendment free speech rights are foundational to our society and government. The court explicitly reiterated that local governments cannot impose sign regulations that treat signs differently based upon what message the sign conveys. Simply put, if someone has to read a sign in order to decide what rules or regulations apply to the sign, then the sign law is presumptively unconstitutional.