The over diagnosis and the over medication of a childhood phenomenon called ADD or ADHD has become the largest contributing factor to lifelong propensity to addiction, violence and early death. The overly prescribed drug, Ritalin, is called kiddie cocaine. There are cases where children were taken from their parents by Child Protective Services because parents refused to put their children on these drugs at the demand of schools. There are cases where children died of heart failure after several years of use of this drug. In all cases the drug causes atrophy in the brain. When the drug causes strange behaviors in the child, instead of concluding that the drug is the cause, they medicate them further with psychotropic drugs. These drugs cause hallucinations. The power of these drugs on a child is deadly and causes great harm.
When I was a child I was curious, energetic and full of joy. I didn't like sitting still, I had things to see and do. I didn't like just waiting around for things to happen, I liked making things happen. I had within me the seeds of an inventor, the seed of an entrepreneur the seed of a creator. Those qualities are to be nurtured and directed. For some reason we have set a standard of acceptable behavior for children. Children....you know the ones who are supposed to run around the playground, ride bikes, and climb trees......are now supposed to be mini adults that sit properly and listen at all times. Seriously! What are we thinking. There are powerful stories in this video, from parents whose children have committed violent crimes as a result of these drugs. The children in the video will tell you of hallucinations, blackouts, night terrors and violent tendencies. If we want to save our children, if we want to stop juvenile violence, we have to stop drugging them.
The reports of these hallucinations and the violent tendencies are well known in medical reports. The medical communities know that these kids who have committed violent crimes as in Columbine, did so because of the drugs they had been given. Please take the time to watch this powerful video.
Last week State Supreme Courts and the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments calling for a clarification or legality of current criminal justice sentencing and parole practices. For some reason, state criminal justice systems refuse to change unless required to do so after a binding legal ruling. Why is this? Why is it that states argue and disagree about criminal justice reforms and treating those in conflict with the law fairly?
The United States Supreme Court has already handed down landmark rulings concerning the unconstitutional practice of juvenile life without parole, calling it cruel and unusual. The UN Committee on Torture agrees and has called the United States to account on it's continued use of this sentencing practice. The problem NOW is the application of this ruling retroactively. In other words states MAY agree that the sentence cannot be used going forward with new cases but refuse to address the individuals that have already been sentenced to life in prison. For me, that is very curious indeed. The cases that were heard in the Supreme Court involved individuals already sentenced and serving time in adult prisons. Surely this would mean that the ruling applied retroactively. Not so, Attorney General's offices and District Attorney's across the United States have been standing against sentencing reform policies proposed by state governments. Now states are asking the United States Supreme Court for help in settling this dispute. The case will settle, once and for all, the retroactive application of Miller.
In Colorado, reform of the Juvenile Life Without Parole sentence has been challenged and the Supreme Court Rulings have yet to be announced. In the meantime, advocates and attorneys have been working diligently to draft a reform bill that would bring Colorado into constitutional compliance with the US Supreme Court Rulings and also bring sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. Their greatest opposition is from District Attorney's and legislators who are hesitant to take ANY stance on this issue. As a matter of fact Colorado legislators have been reluctant to address any but the most menial reforms to its criminal justice system.
In addition the Colorado Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the application of earned time and good time to sentences. The complex and often misinterpreted parole and sentencing guidelines in Colorado have been challenged several times but this will be the first time that the state supreme court will have the opportunity to address this issue. This ruling could affect the time served by every inmate in this state and release many inmates who have already served their required sentence.
All of this brings me back to the original questions. Why are state governments so reluctant to make these reforms on their own? Why do they not care that the criminal justice system is unconstitutional, overzealous or just plain broken? Why do they want to be forced to change? Maybe it's politics, maybe there is no one to step forward and lead the change, maybe they really don't care, maybe they have a vested interest in things remaining the same. Whatever the reason.......CHANGE IS INEVITABLE and THE PUBLIC is calling for it.
This week is full of information concerning the impact that our current social, economic and justice practices have on children. Our child poverty statistics are an embarrassment. The number of families who are not able to make a living wage and provide for their families is an open wound that has not been healed from the last recession. The instance of homelessness for families in the United States is far too high and far too frequent. According to the Huff Post article on Oct. 29, 2014, 32.2% of children in this nation live below the poverty line and this nation has seen a 2% increase in poverty from 2008 to 2012. The United States ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthiest countries for poverty levels.
Our school policies that promote zero tolerance for any infraction have disenfranchised large groups of students, expelling them from classrooms and placing them in juvenile detention facilities. These policies will place a student in harms way for simple infractions such as refusing to follow a teacher's direction, wearing clothing that does not fall into the schools guidelines, skipping class, arguing with a teacher, having a conflict with another student and the list goes on. These students can be arrested....listen again....ARRESTED and placed into juvenile detention. These practices remove a student from the educational environment, from their families, from all things familiar and throw them into a conflict ridden, punishment driven environment that crushes them. Talk about childhood trauma!
Add to these atrocities the number of homeless youth in our nation and we should be appalled. According to national estimates there are 550,000 youth a year that are homeless for longer than a week. The average age when a youth becomes homeless is 14.7 years. Many of these youth left abusive homes, many have aged out of the foster care system and had no place to go or found themselves in a few financial hard spots on their way to independence. Many of these young people just need support and guidance as they try to navigate from youth to adulthood. We all needed that guidance! Yet, merely because of their circumstance, these kids are vulnerable to violence and conflict with law enforcement which further errodes their opportunities for a successful transition.
At the end of November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture challenged the practices of the United States concerning juvenile justice policies, solitary confinement, cruel and unusual punishment of children and prison conditions. Recent advocacy in New York has ended the practice of sending juveniles to Rikers Island after the case of the teen who had been held at Rikers for three years without a trial or conviction. Many of those kids held at Rikers were held in solitary confinement because of their age. The UN Committee Against Torture challenged the practice of solitary confinement while the United States responded that is had no sanctioned standards of practice for the use of solitary confinement. Almost all children in conflict with the law who are awaiting trial in adult court are held in solitary confinement in county jails in this country "for their own protection". Many children who have taken plea agreements or who are convicted and sentenced to adult prisons are held in solitary confinement when they arrive at prison "for their own protection". The United States is the only nation in the world who sentences it's children to life without parole. The practice of sentencing juveniles to spend the rest of their lives behind bars is in direct violation of the United Nations Convention On The Rights of The Child, an international treaty that the United States helped to draft but has refused to ratify because they want to maintain the right to throw away children.
Even the highest court of this nation seems to have no impact on the way we deal with our children. We have two powerful rulings from the highest court of the land that declare that life without parole for a child is cruel and unusual punishment and that he age, mental capacity and the ability to rehabilitate a should be considered in every individual case and that a meaningful opportunity for parole must be provided. Yet the nation, as a whole, has not moved to rectify these archaic laws and begin the process of resentencing the children (now adults) that are serving these harsh and illegal sentences. Even beyond the life without parole sentences are the THOUSANDS of children who were sentenced to the equivalent of life, serving terms of 40, 50, 60 or more years for offences that would have garnered a 15-20 year sentence for an adult.
Add to this the lack of affordable healthcare, our high infant mortality rate, the deteriorating education system, the cost of college tuitions and we have set insurmountable obstacles before our children, their survival and their success. What do we have against our kids? Why is it that we have turned away from our children, abandoning them to punishment, abuses and humiliation at our own hands? Have we forgotten that our prosperity, our heritage and our future is shaped by the way we educate, instruct and nurture our children?
It is time for the United States to humble herself, open up her heart and care about the most vulnerable of her population....her children.
"Evidently, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps isn’t enough to overcome a system that’s stacked against you." Think Progress.org
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