We are killing the souls of our children

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good afternoon:

As a result of my experiences as a public defender representing kids charged with crimes in juvenile court during the late 70s, I believe that incarcerating nonviolent juvenile offenders in juvenile prisons is unnecessary and stupid. Incarcerating them in adult prisons is all of that and barbaric. Yet, that is what we do.

A recent study by the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency confirms my belief.

Lenconnect.com reports:

Among the facts in Monday’s report:

■ Prior to entering prison, 78 percent had a friend who was killed; 48 percent had a family member that was killed.

■ 81 percent had a parent with substance abuse issues.

■ 44 percent spent time in foster care and were placed out of home an average of 11 times.

■ 45 percent had a father in prison; 25 percent had a mother in prison; 19 percent had a sibling in prison.

Piling trauma upon trauma is not an effective strategy to rehabilitate troubled youth, and incarceration almost always does more harm than good. Set aside the psychological scars, the implications for the individuals and their home communities are long-lasting.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Whether any particular form of punishment violates that standard will depend on how evolving societal attitudes about punishment change over time.

I believe we need to change what we are doing to our children because we are killing their souls.

Beginning during the Reagan Administration and its lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-keys mentality to today’s emphasis on ushering kids from school into privatized prisons where they are exploited as revenue-generating widgets to line the pockets of the rich investors who own the corporations that operate the prisons at taxpayer expense, our society has eliminated any realistic possibility that any of these kids will ever have a decent chance to experience a happy and productive life outside of a prison.

That is an Eighth Amendment and human rights violation.

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5 Responses to We are killing the souls of our children

  1. J4TMinATL says:

    Tonight shortly before midnight, Marcus Wellons was executed in Georgia. Marcus was set to die at 7pm. After all appeals were exhausted, the execution continued at 11:30pm. He becomes the first person to be executed since the botch in Oklahoma. My candle remains lit.

    Here is the story of jury misconduct during his trial.


  2. I vote for real officers of the peace and prisons that are centers of healing. And that means a lot has to change in society as well.

  3. crazy1946 says:

    Do you suppose it is the out of sight out of mind philosophy that our society is so enamored with? If we lock a child up with other children, they will manage to figure out a way to occupy their minds and not likely to be with good and pure thoughts… Too bad their are so few parents available for role models today, or perhaps I should say for good role models?

    • There are reasons why kids commit mass shootings that end in suicide.

      Individuals and communities need to spend less time blaming the shooter and more time asking themselves what they did or failed to do that created and sustained a climate where doing what should have been unthinkable not only became thinkable but desirable.

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