The Voice's sister paper, the Palo Alto Weekly, is co-sponsoring a free discussion on how juvenile crimes are handled by the police and District Attorney with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office on Monday, Sept. 18, in Palo Alto.
"Your Kids and the Law" will feature two speakers: LaRon Dennis, supervising deputy district attorney for the county's Juvenile Justice Unit, and Nate Wandruff, an investigator with the District Attorney's Office and a former Mountain View police officer.
Palo Alto Weekly education writer Elena Kadvany will moderate the panel, and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky will give welcoming remarks.
In a statement, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said his office wanted to hold the forum to dispel some of the confusion around the juvenile justice system.
"The juvenile justice system can seem like a black hole," he said. "Some young people go into it. Little information comes back out. What happened?"
He said he asked Dennis, Wandruff and Boyarsky to "talk about how we have fought to make the system more transparent" and to "discuss and answer questions about the right balance between rehabilitating a young offender and protecting the public."
Prior to joining the District Attorney's Office, Dennis worked in the juvenile and criminal justice systems in a range of capacities: as an adjunct professor teaching juvenile law; as a consultant training justice system partners on the use of risk assessment tools and the implementation of evidence-based practices; as a delinquency law and policy attorney for the California Judicial Council; as a senior program associate at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at the University of California at Berkeley Law School; and as a deputy legislative counsel for the Office of Legislative Counsel in Sacramento.
Dennis is also contributing author for "Seiser & Kumli on California Juvenile Courts Practice and Procedure," California's leading treatise on juvenile law.
Wandruff has spent more than 20 years working in law enforcement. As a county investigator, he is currently working with the Domestic Violence Unit, the Firearms Training Unit and the Officer-Involved Incident Team. As a Mountain View police officer, he investigated numerous cases involving juveniles.
The panelists will explore topics like how decisions are made to prosecute, what is public information and what isn't in juvenile crimes, how juvenile court proceedings work and how crimes on school campuses are handled, among others.
"When the public knows about the juvenile justice system, then the public can make the juvenile justice system better," Rosen said.
Panelists will not be able to discuss specific cases due to the confidentiality of juvenile court proceedings.
After a discussion, the panelists will take questions from the audience.
The forum will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road.