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The Juvenile Prosecution Unit prosecutes all juveniles charged with offenses which would be punishable as felonies if committed by an adult. In addition, the Unit also prosecutes all juveniles who are charged by the Rhode Island State Police, State Fire Marshall and the Department of Environmental Management. The Unit is responsible for the prosecution of all juveniles who are charged with violations of probation, as well as the prosecution of adults who commit child neglect and exploitation of a minor.
This past year proved to be another busy year for the Juvenile Prosecution Unit. The Unit received 1,234 new petitions charging juveniles with criminal offenses. This represents 608 new delinquency charges and 44 wayward charges, and 582 violations of probation and court orders. During 2013, the Unit prosecuted 767 new juvenile offenders, nearly 100 more than the previous year. A new juvenile offender is a juvenile not previously prosecuted by the Unit. This number does not include juveniles that the Unit prosecuted in past years or juveniles who re-offend during the current year.
The Unit received 1,234 new petitions charging juveniles with criminal offenses, representing 608 new delinquency charges and 44 wayward charges.
Rhode Island General Law allows the Office of Attorney General to seek to waive a juvenile out of the Family Court system to be tried as an adult in Superior Court. In 2013, the Juvenile Unit filed one Mandatory Waiver Motion and 18 Discretionary Waiver Motions. Of those motions, one discretionary motion was withdrawn and the juvenile pled, six discretionary waiver motions were amended to certifications where the juvenile pled to an adult sentence, and four discretionary waiver motions are pending. In addition, four juveniles voluntarily waived their cases to Superior Court and the Court waived three juveniles following hearings.
In 2013, the Unit prosecuted 88 juveniles for school violence cases, not including the wayward offenses handled by municipalities. The range of offenses that occurred on school property included assault, breaking and entering, drug offenses, possession of weapons and bomb threats.
Last year, 124 juveniles were admitted to the Juvenile Drug Court and Drug Court Diversion Program.
Last year, the Unit prosecuted 55 juveniles in Family Court for firearm cases, an increase of 20 over the previous year. These included 22 BB guns, one shot gun and 30 firearms, which included handguns/pistols.
The Unit participates in the Juvenile Drug Court, which aggressively addresses substance abuse and associative behaviors, which if not addressed could lead to further contact with the courts. Last year, 124 juveniles were admitted to the Juvenile Drug Court and Drug Court Diversion Program; 112 juveniles successfully graduated from the program while 42 were terminated or discharged for violating the rules of the program.
The Juvenile Prosecution Unit is also responsible for covering cases heard in the Re-Entry Court, which is a specialized court that monitors and reviews juveniles recently released from the Rhode Island Training School.
Prosecutors also conduct emergency arraignment, wherein a juvenile has been detained overnight at the Rhode Island Training School with the approval of a Family Court Judge. There were 298 emergency arraignments in 2013.
The Unit continues to be actively involved in the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Project. The initiative works towards reducing reliance on secure confinement without sacrificing public safety. One of the goals is to shift spending from detention to community-based detention alternatives.
In 2011, the General Assembly allowed for electronic monitoring of juveniles as a detention alternative. The program was activated in February 2012. Since then, electronic monitoring of juveniles has become a detention alternative in Rhode Island. According to the Department of Children, Youth and Family, 189 juveniles were placed on electronic monitoring or home confinement in 2013, with a success rate of 82.6 percent.
The Juvenile Unit also prosecutes adults who commit child neglect, exploitation of a minor and failure to pay child support. In 2013, the Unit prosecuted five child neglect criminal cases with an additional 18 pending at the end of the calendar year.
One of the most high profile cases of child neglect the Unit prosecuted was that of Mayra Gonzalez, the mother of five week old Christina Jimenez and the girlfriend of Christopher Jimenez, who is currently charged with murder of baby Christina. Christina was born healthy in May 2012. During her fifth week of life, the rescue was called to the Gonzalez home because Christina was not breathing. First responders resuscitated the baby but she later died at the hospital from her horrific injuries, which included 17 rib fractures, four skull fractures, a lacerated liver, fractured pelvis, fractured clavicle and many broken fingers and toes.
Mayra Gonzalez was tried before a Family Court trial and convicted for failure to provide care for Christina. The Court sentenced Gonzalez to a three year sentence with 15 months to serve at the ACI.
In addition to prosecuting cases, members of the Juvenile Unit work within the community to educate students and the public about juvenile laws and prosecution of juveniles. The staff also serves on several committees and task forces pertaining to juvenile and child abuse cases, including the Rhode Island Sex Offender Registration and Notification Task Force, the Rhode Island Council for Interstate Compact for Juveniles, Hasbro Children’s Hospital Child Protection Program, the Child Advocacy Center at Day One, among several others.
In addition to the six prosecutors, two paralegals and support staff, the Juvenile Unit is assigned a victim witness assistant, responsible for corresponding with juvenile clients who have been the victim of juvenile offenders, as well as adult offenders charged with child neglect. This staff member also assists prosecutors with interviews of juvenile victims and witnesses, attends Family Court hearings and coordinates with the Rhode Island Juvenile Probation Office on issues of victim restitution. In addition, this staff member serves as part of the Child Advocacy team attending bi-weekly meetings at Day One, where cases of molestation and sexual assault are reviewed for potential criminal prosecution.