Many times I am confronted with strange peering looks and poigniant questions when I announce that I advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform. It seems implausible to those bystanders that our system could be as broken as I claim, as outdated as I describe and as destructive as I reveal. The truth is......it is.
Do we need to do something to intervene in the life of someone who is breaking the law? Yes. Do we need to provide re-payment for harm done? Yes. Do we need to deter others from choosing the same path? Yes!
If the current system of arrest, court hearings and prison were effective in addressing the above issue, we would be in a better place. However, as The Pew Charitable Trust reported, we have become a prison nation, a nation that knows how to lock people up but not what to do after that.
Our first issue to address is how easy it is to get arrested. We have laws governing everything with a suitable punishment to go with it. This is especially true when it come to our youth. Our zero tolerance policies in schools make it possible, easy and effective to deal with a truent student. They suspend them or even better we have them arrested and sent to juvenile hall. We have zero tolerance for any mistake a child makes. Try tucking your new knife into your backpack so that you can show your friends at school. You will land in the principles office and be suspended. If boys get into an altercation on the school ground (which boys do) you will be suspended and possibly expelled. At no time in history can I remember when we have placed such harsh regulations on children. Never have we placed such harsh punishments on children.
The result of these policies, laws, punishments and confinement is broken families. Families that find themselves thrown into a legal and justice system that they are not trained to navigate. It is terrifying at the least and destructive to all those involved....from grandma to mother, from father to brother. Yet the greatest harm is to leave a child alone, unprotected, unguided and in harms way as you are forced to leave them at the prison facility.
This week a new report was released that finally takes a comprehensive look at how our current juvenile justice policies actually feed our prison pipeline, destroy families and deteriorate our communities. It also presents viable solutions that can bring restoration to all. Worth the read. Families Unlocking Futures
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