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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Decrease in New Jersey juveniles sent to detention centers

According to a recent report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, from 1997 to 2010 there was a significant decrease in the number of juveniles locked up in detention centers throughout New Jersey. Other states are now looking to New Jersey to get pointers on also decreasing their incarceration rates among juveniles.

In looking at what caused some of this decrease, it was not necessarily that juveniles were not still committing crimes. Rather, it was that the Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative was adopted in 16 counties, including Atlantic County. This initiative led to governmental agencies and social services working together in order to give young offenders the help they needed, not just locking them up.

Before this initiative, part of the issue was that there were no program options for teens in legal trouble. Often, this led to low level criminals being locked up in detention centers and not getting the supervision and counseling that was necessary to make life changes.

Now, through the initiative, there are a number of alternative programs available, including electronic monitoring, supervised home detention and shelter care. Employment programs, access to case managers and services to help deter future crimes are also available.

For those juveniles who were having issues getting to their court hearings, transportation options are available in some counties. This helps to ensure a juvenile does not end up in a detention center for non-appearance, especially considering the fact that many juveniles are not able to just drive themselves to court.

In looking at the positives at these types of initiatives, not only does it help juveniles — who maybe just made one bad decision — avoid detention centers, it can also give them the resources that are needed to make better life choices. Again, unlike detention centers, the point is to rebuild their lives, not make them harder well into the future.

Of course though, depending on the crime, even though detention may not happen, having a juvenile criminal record can still come with long-term consequences. This is why in any case, when a juvenile is arrested, an attorney who understands the juvenile justice system can help explain the different possible options and outcomes.

Source: New Jersey Today, “New Jersey Reduces Juvenile Incarceration By More Than 50 Percent,” Feb. 27, 2013

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