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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 29, 2001 - Issue 52


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Guide to Aid Youths in S.D. Legal System

credits: Logo South Dakota Coalition for Children
Troubled youths confused about their rights in South Dakota's juvenile justice system can turn to a new resource for information and advice.

The South Dakota Coalition for Children has developed a 16-page guidebook to aid youths and their parents. The organization presented its publication at a news conference Wednesday at the main branch of the Siouxland Public Libraries.

"We discovered that people caught in the system - youths and their parents - didn't have a clue," said Karen Hattervig, an East River Legal Services lawyer and chairwoman of the work group that wrote the booklet.

Youths and parents often don't understand some of the legal terms they encounter in the juvenile justice system, don't realize how the process works and are confused about the role of a court services officer, Hattervig said. Many people involved with the system are stressed, nervous, scared or even mad.

Hattervig said the Coalition for Children was concerned about the juvenile justice system before the July 1999 death of Gina Score at the State Training School in Plankinton. That incident heightened awareness.

The organization is a nonpartisan group with no ax to grind and no money to make, Hattervig said. It will distribute copies of the booklet to schools, police stations and libraries to get it "into the hands of the people who need it," she said.

The work group was composed of lawyers Hattervig, Linda Lea Viken and Stephanie Pochop, University of South Dakota professors Jay Newberger and John Gehm, parent Linda Hallstrom, and Turning Point Shelter care director Kim Wagley. They consulted with judges, state's attorneys, a public defender and other experts.

Hallstrom, whose 17-year-old daughter has been in the juvenile justice system, said publication of the booklet is a positive step.

"The experience of being in court is very emotional. Because of that, we tend not to hear the information we need until afterward," Hallstrom said. "Just the act of putting it in the hands of parents and their children sends a message. This is part of the solution."

Circuit Judge Kathleen Caldwell said the booklet should help deter people's fears and anxieties while they're involved in a court process that can be traumatic and confusing.

The process to produce the booklet included meetings with youths in three communities and telephone interviews with two dozen parents of kids in the system, said Susan Randall, executive director of the South Dakota Coalition for Children.

A youth advisory council reviewed the guidebook. Three members of that group - Shannon O'Keefe of Aberdeen Roncalli High School, April Lindquist of Sioux Falls Washington High School and Liz Schlimgen of Sioux Falls O'Gorman High School - attended the news conference to show their support.

"I think the booklet is very good and easy to understand," Lindquist said. "I got a lot out of it. I think it will be helpful to kids who find themselves in that situation."

O'Keefe said she thinks the booklet will make a positive change in the way the juvenile justice system is handled in the state. She learned a lot about a juvenile's rights and the process by reading it.

The Midcontinent Media Foundation, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, South Dakota Community Foundation and John T. Vucerevich Foundation provided funding for the project.

The free guidebook is available on the Coalition for Children's Web site,; by sending a request to SDCC Guidebook, Box 2246, Sioux Falls 57101-2246; or by e-mailing officeassit@

South Dakota Coalition for Children
The South Dakota Coalition for Children seeks to insure that the needs of all South Dakota children are met including food, clothing, shelter, nuturing, education, health care and safety within the family and community.

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