For more than a decade I have interviewed more than 1,000 kids in 35 states. What of these kids who were sentenced to long sentences and JLWOP, life sentences without parole? These kids become adults who become geriatric. These are the people I have interviewed for the past year.
All of us during our lives as children, adolescents and eventually adults need some encouragement. As the individuals we are, we tend to learn differently, have different perspectives and take risks on different levels. For those like myself, words of encouragement were really needed in my life to fulfill my true potential in the activities that I engaged in.
I’ve spent 15 years working inside New York’s justice system, representing teenagers and doing research inside juvenile facilities. When the New York State Legislature passed legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, I viewed this change not as resolution of a long-standing problem within New York’s justice system, but rather as a step toward needed reforms of our state’s juvenile justice system.
Esteem. Eagerness. Engagement. Elation. Kids in custody become kids for a day. “Cat in the Hat” hats, beloved Dr. Seuss stories, pride to contribute, laughter, fun and the promise of a giant cupcake to celebrate the life of Dr. Seuss transform a jail into a celebration of literacy. Spirits are high, peer cooperation is contagious and childlike delight spreads across a facility often darkened by despair and disrespect.
Last month, a group of girls at a juvenile detention center in the Bronx sat in a discussion circle with a teaching artist and a social worker. After a series of circle meetings, the girls at Horizon Juvenile Center in New York City had created vision boards, collages in which they envisioned their life five years from now.
Like the phoenix, a mystical bird of Greek mythology that rises from the ashes of its predecessor, we are experiencing today a rebirth of a once promising trend in juvenile justice I refer to as deconstruction, which goes well beyond what we commonly call deinstitutionalization.
The National Juvenile Justice Network has announced its two annual awards.
Verna Carr of New Orleans was awarded the Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth Award 2017. She first became involved with Family and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children six years ago when her then-13-year-old son had faced multiple suspensions, which began his trajectory into the school-to-prison pipeline.
$271,318. That’s how much California expects to spend per youth this year on its failed state youth correctional facilities, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). This amount of money could drastically improve a young person’s education, well-being and development opportunities.
Twenty-two years ago, a retired juvenile court judge in San Francisco teamed up with a Native American healer to help kids get on a positive path and avoid juvenile court. This summer, the organization they created was among 18 groups that received grants from New York Life Insurance Company to help underserved middle school students reach ninth grade on time.
Youth employment programs are one of the most effective ways to assist disadvantaged youth, especially those in the juvenile justice system, in developing life competencies. Competent youth have a better chance of becoming competent adults.
“If someone had just asked, things might have been different,” said Mateo, a closeted, gay, gang-involved teenager in juvenile detention for committing a hate crime against a gay person. Mateo (pseudonym used to protect confidentiality) had committed a robbery at gunpoint outside a gay bar while shouting homophobic slurs at his victim.
A growing body of research, including work published here, documents harms of what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Evidence shows that compared to 20 or more years ago, contemporary schools are more likely to suspend students — particularly students of color — out of school for minor misbehaviors.
The federal government’s attempts to bring consistency and standards to public education across the country have often clashed with the reality facing educators trying to meet those standards. The challenge is even greater for those working with teens locked behind bars or struggling to deal with years of physical and emotional trauma.
A white board with a giant illustration of the human brain sat in the middle of the room, a constant reminder, participants said, that any real attempts to treat juvenile offenders begins not with detention or tough love, but with science.