📝 Fooling With The Ruling 📝 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding Policies
“All of these young people have some kind of potential in them. And if we don't invest in them as a nation, regardless of where they come from or what color they are, if we don't invest in them, we...
lose,” said Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. Through her initiatives, she has become an outspoken role model for women and an advocate for many movements such as Let’s Move!, Reach Higher, Joining Forces, and Let Girls Learn. Here, Michelle expands on the belief that young people are crucial to the development of our country: in hopes of creating a better future. In our current world, the conditions of teens and young adults are often misrepresented. In addition to the common stigma of adultism towards those more youthful, they are frequently thought to be lazy or “pampered” due to our society’s modernization cushioning: “abuse” of technology, lack of responsibilities, etc. Therefore, this belief is emanated, leading to a lack of emphasis on our youth’s education and overall well-being. Despite the numerous bills and ordinances passed in America today, it is seldom to see policies, which encompass the intentions of benefiting our nation’s families and youth being passed or approved. Directing greater emphasis towards our youth will help further our society and work to build upon the works of our forefathers: without a strong foundation, how can we continue?
As stated by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), “On any given day, over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement. Most are held in restrictive, correctional-style facilities, and thousands are held without even having had a trial.” While these statistics may seem surprising, in actuality, juvenile custody rates have substantially declined since the 2000s. Despite this progress procured in approximately twenty years, effort should continue to be put forth in hopes of seeing a steady decline. The PPI continues, “Of the 43,000 youth in juvenile facilities, more than two-thirds (69%) are 16 or older. Troublingly, more than 500 confined children are no more than 12 years old (...) Black and American Indian youth are overrepresented in juvenile facilities, while white youth are underrepresented.”
In terms of age groups, it is sickening to discover that children under twelve are currently being locked up or held in custody for wrongful actions. As indicated earlier, certain racial disparities were evidently seen in the data gathered. So what could this possibly mean? In paraphrasing the figures shown by the PPI, most crimes committed are, in descending order, person offenses, technical violations, possession of property, public order offenses, drug use, and status offenses. When looking at these listed offenses, all commonly seen conducted by the majority of juvenile delinquents, it can be determined that environment, hereditary, and influence can all play a role in the development of said criminal. With data gathered from the Sentencing Project, states with a mass criminal population are Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, and Arizona. Most of which have high racial disparity rates: California has an astounding rate of 8.8:1 (Black to White ratio). It would make sense for Texas and California to have high crime rates due to their overall mass population; however, Tennessee extorts a high juvenile custody rate despite its moderate size. As seen on the State-by-State map, for every 100,000 juveniles, around 12 of them are in custody. Considering Tennessee’s overall population of (6.829 million), about 819 juveniles in total are currently being detained.
Conditions in detention centers are described to be intensely harmful, some delinquents even stating that these conditions in actuality caused more harm than healing. According to the Juvenile Law Center (JLC), “Many youth prisons are called “schools,” but few of these facilities provide either quality education services or mental health care or other services children need to heal. Too many incarcerated youth are subject to solitary confinement — often for 22-24 hours per day — strip searches, shackles, and chemical sprays. These abusive practices cause physical injuries, emotional trauma, and psychological harm; and interrupt healthy development. Youth in prison also face physical and sexual violence, compounding the trauma imposed by their isolation and separation from their families, friends, and communities.” In addition to the current hardships these children are already facing, when they are led to a facility to receive help, evidently, more physical, mental, and emotional baggage is built up. Considering that specific individuals should be punished for their actions — such as actions of assault, theft, rape, murder, etc. — it is just not reasonable to place such young, misguided minors in such a virulent environment. To lower rates of juvenile incarceration in our country, we as a nation need to express more empathy when judging the actions of a delinquent. As mentioned earlier, “not all kids are bad.”Perhaps if we played the role of the “bigger person”, only then would we realize how many of these offenders require counseling, influence, or simply a fitting role model rather than concreted punishments.
Comparative to the intended purpose of the criminal justice system, it can be fittingly stated that there are visible flaws and errors that can be seen to be counteractive. In paraphrasing the Goodwin University newsletter, the definite objective of the criminal justice system is to deliver “justice for all” in means of protecting the innocent, rightfully convicting criminals, and providing a fair justice process to help keep order across the country. How can we rightfully administer justice inside the community, to the victim, and to the violator? Be on the lookout for an upcoming Part 2 of this blog in which we will have an in-depth analysis of the aspects and shortcomings of our current justice system—coming soon!