22 states in America allow kids as young as 7 to be tried as adults. Kids don’t just wake up one morning and start committing crimes one day. Many are in rough neighborhoods or in abusive and neglectful families. Their immaturity coupled with the feeling of having no way out doesn’t leave them with many choices. No one hears them until it is too late. From the stories I’ve read, not one said they weren’t guilty. Most had no way of understanding the ramifications of what they were doing. They didn’t have anywhere to go to change what was happening around them. One boy came from a family where 7 men in their immediate family were behind bars and one witnessed his father shot and killed in front of him when he was 14. Who mentored this child or taught him right from wrong? What did he learn growing up? Many of these children never had a chance. Growing up, and maturing in prison, never having the chance to learn how life could be some want to be able to use their lives to reach out to other young people. To be given 25 years to life? Is that the best use of their life? How many hundreds of thousands of dollars will it cost the taxpayers to provide him this very substandard existence. They can never have hope. Can their lives be redeemable? Children have no control over their emotions. Many use violence to get away from people who are abusing them. Why can’t we handle this differently? Why do we have to throw them away?
You will have to make up your own mind about this. It doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters how the system changes. The more voices there are, the louder the call for change and the faster it happens. This begins the school to prison pipeline. Don’t turn a blind eye. Once a child gets caught in it they often can not get away. They also learn more about doing crimes than they knew before they went in. There are good and bad people on both sides of the fence. None of this is new, but they are things we should never forget. We need to have a justice system that is fair to all people and doesn’t single out others because it is clear this is what is happening.
The public has been inundated this past year with more and more accounts of this savage behavior by people staffed by our justice system. It’s out in the open and more and more people are demanding change. This last incident of Kalief Browder and how his experience of spending years at Rikers Island, not even being convicted of a crime, destroyed him to the point where he felt the only way he could really escape was to kill himself. Since this was a young man getting an education, who might he have grown up to be? He’ll never get that chance. It is a tragedy. Every person, Black, White, Hispanic, gay, or poor, has been caused such a disservice by the keepers in this country. A judge was given a 30 year prison sentence for selling schoolkids and adults for profit to a prison. The only people who don’t get an automatic sentence the ones with money or an important name, because they buy their way out. A white man can have money and still get away with raping his own children and be returned to society with the potential to hurt someone else. The judge ruled that being a pedophile would make it hard on him so he was given probation and mandatory counseling instead. For molesting his children and was caught in the act! It was not enough to put him away!
I went to grade school in the sixties. (note: there are no fat children here) When I was disruptive I got the paddle once by my teacher. Children were respectful and rarely chaotic and undisciplined. The cops weren’t called! Now if a child is disruptive in class, they just call the cops and will be put in handcuffs in front of other children and taken away. That child that might only be six or eight years old and be taken away from their parents and likely be put in juvenile detention. A broken rule that might have previously only needed the parents to come for a meeting with the teachers, now means the parents will instead have to go to court and at last have fine to pray. There seems to be this push, especially in the poorer neighborhoods to lock up as many kids as possible.
Jamie is a school to prison pipeline victim. His story is here to read starting on this blogs opening page. I invite you to spend some time here reading posts of his letters from prison or listening to the music written for the book I’m writing located at the last page through the menu button at the top of the site.