I ran across this video today and it left me shaking my head. How can two preteens and a 15 year old do this? But the other question is: is it right to give them life without parole? Yes it is a horrible thing they did, a man lost his life, but clearly there wasn’t enough maturity or understanding of consequences to think beyond the act.
Did they think about their life and what would happen to them? They killed one boy’s step-father. The other two boys had nothing to gain by participating. They didn’t understand the impact.
Did they play videos games that made light of killing? I don’t know. But I’ve watched my grandchildren. I had to put a stop to some of the games they play because they think nothing of slaughtering people in games and these are not fantasizes.
One game my grandson was playing is called Roblocs. There are many games in that gaming system. One is about inmates escaping from prison. The players are cops who chase them down and kill them. What does that teach them? All inmates are bad and should be shot and killed, reinforcing that all inmates are horrible people and should be killed. As they get older that translates into black people should be killed – because there are so many black people in prison. 1 in 3 black people will do time during their lifetime. Not white people. White people are better. Training from childhood.
In another game the player plays the part of being a school shooter who then goes to schools and kills students. Fortunately, that game was taken down because parents were outraged? How many children played it before it was taken down who thought it was fun? Who would make a game like that?
What taught the three boys in the video that shooting with the intent to kill was okay and that they could get away with it and the one boy’s life would be better off without his step father.
There have been many other murders that didn’t result in life without parole. Did the court feel these boys were too dangerous to be let into society again? What bothers me is the inconsistency in the way sentences are handed out. There is a lot I don’t know yet about this case. I’m curious about what you think and why. This happened years ago. Will these boys never learn anything else about life except the horrors of prison and never have a life to return to.
I have read so much about prisons and what happens inside. We are now witnessing a 17 state non-violent prison protest because of the violence. This protest will not result in major changes, but it will help make people aware so there can hopefully be changes in the future.
Which is worse, these young boys or the adults running the corruption. Do the boys mature into better men? Do we just lock them up and throw away the key? Which is worse?
Earlier last year I recorded a piano lullaby called “For The Children.” When I was putting my last ITFO newsletter together it was called, For The Children, about the children of inmates who often become the next generation of inmates by being pushed through the school to prison pipeline – a very deliberate action by teachers who admit they suspend black children much quicker and easier than white children who are also physically abused by onshore cops that were NEVER needed in the schools when I was a child.
The Prison Industrial Complex is very selfish about their financial gains made by diminishing the quality of the lives of anyone who isn’t white. Anyone who thinks this isn’t true is most likely white as well. Keeping the status of white privilege as a badge they think worth wearing, even though it doesn’t really exist.
Many people are emotionally upset over the concept of abortion. I’m not saying that is wrong.We should care about the lives that become children and hope they have the dream of a fulfilled life. I am more concerned about the lives of the children who have already been born yet their lives are not being helped by the people who insist all lives should be born. Too few people care about the lives after they are born. Are they loved, fed, nurtured, educated and given hope or are they brushed aside because they are black or minority and have less value because they have a parent in prison and therefore have a gene that automatically makes them prone to be a criminal? There is no gene like this. It is a box we put these children in and they grow up feeling they have no worth because people make them feel this is their rightful place in society.
If you have ever felt these things – If you have ever felt that every impregnated cell has the right to life, yet have done nothing to help these lives, you should be ashamed, because there is much you could do if your feelings were sincere.
When I put out the last issue of the newsletter, this music it would have been a good piece to put it but I had forgotten about it. So I’m putting it here today if you’d like to hear it. There are 32 pieces of music on Sound Cloud. Someday I’ll be gone. I hope my music lives on in the people who were part of my life. The music I write is about emotions. When I feel something strongly it comes out in music. So much of what I write is melancholy, written in minor keys.
I began writing when I was a teenager, writing songs. Somewhere I have all the lyrics. I should publish them. They are a diary of my life. My piano accompaniment was classically influenced. Growing up I was influenced more by Van Clyburn and Andre Previn than by the Beatles and the Stones. I no longer write songs but I do write poetry, better read to the music than sung. You can find it on both blogs. Here and “Watch and Whirl” by searching for Sonni Quick Piano Music.
(The source for this photo is borde.org. ) This past week the facebook page for Jamie, “Jamie, Life In Prison” gained 45 new likes, the most it has grown in any one week period! It takes time to build readership just like it takes time here at WordPress. My last ITFO Newsletter didn’t post here to this blog. I am having difficulties doing some things right now since I broke my shoulder and arm a week a ago. I can only use Swype on my Nook which is slow and tedious. At least I damaged my left side and not my right side, as I try to find something positive in all this mess. If you aren’t on the mailing list yet for the newsletter, go to the link for the facebook page. Scroll down about a dozen.You’ll see a post “What About The Children?” sent out to over 6000 people. Clicking on that post will bring up the issue. There are about 7 articles you can read by clicking on the titles. Only a tiny portion is visible. Each one is a different aspect of the children. On the top are buttons to see past issues and also to subscribe. Please do that and also share it on your timeline if you think it is important. The next issue will be about the women, a quickly growing segment of the prison population. Why? Without mothers the children have no chance at all.
The issues about prison reform are so important because it affects so many people in addition to those incarcerated. Wives and husbands. Sisters and brothers, grandparents and friends. If our justice system didn’t incarcerate so many innocent people to feed the corporations that don’t want to pay a living wage to the public who desperately needs to make a livable wage then just maybe things could change. If you break it completely down, it begins with the percentage of people who believe the corporations who bring you the news are also bringing you the truth. Sadly, the truth is hard to find. Versions of the truth, which are really only opinions are believed as truth. Only if you take the time to read outside the box and strive to understand why it is so important to “them” for you to believe what they say can you begin to understand what is true and what isn’t. Until you do that you are just a pawn in their game of control.
The incarceration of the black race was deliberate. We know it for sure with John Erlichman’s confession about Nixon’s War on Drugs. We also know for certain because it is mainly the black race being set free because of bogus charges – not the white race. Sadly it often takes 20 – 40 years to get the conviction turned around and prisons often fight like hell to keep them and say it is up to them to figure out how to get released with no help from them. Is it because they don’t want to admit wrong doing because of the way they are mistreated?. I don’t know, but I think, as human beings, they would want to do no more harm. It is not the case, though. Because of racism, being born black is often the only “sin” committed.
In cases where crime was committed, the mandatory minimum sentencing laws often take the rest of that person’s life away from them. A gram of coke, an ounce of pot and a life is lost. Which is worse? Driving drunk that caused a death, but with a good attorney could set you free, but if you only had a public defender they’d force you to take a plea of many years. The public needs to do the right thing and force change.
In the meantime, the destruction of families, the destruction of a child’s education, children deprived of parents, black children overwhelmingly shoved through juveniles detention with very few people hearing their cries for help. Look at what the system did to Kalief Browder. Remember him? It took him committing suicide to stop the system from putting kids in solitary confinement. I wonder how many times he was raped by guards and predators. We should be ashamed that it was allowed to happen. I know other personal stories of ruined people. All I could do was apologize. I don’t know how to fix it. It makes me sick. I don’t know how the law works, but there are people who do, and we can help them by educating people.
Until the people, us ordinary people, throw our support behind the people who are fighting for change, then it will continue. Get away from TV news, bought and paid for, and use the power of the internet. That doesn’t mean to go to news sites that support what you think. Go to sites that don’t sing to the choir where you can actually learn something.
Take care of the children, especially the children of inmates. They are our future, too. We can change their future and also change the future of the world. So many people like to say we are a Christian nation. I don’t see it by looking at people’s actions. What I see is hate and judgemental attitude… Is it you? I don’t know, but you do… I see many harsh words for people who are pro choice. But those who are against abortion, you have the right to your feelings, but are you all talk? Do you do anything at all to help care for the children you say have a right to be born because life is a gift? If you don’t help the children your talk has no meaning. Do something. Be proactive. You reap what you sow.
I did an internet radio show on the David Shape Show about the US prison system, Jamie Cummings and how he deals with epilepsy in a system that doesn’t care about medical care for the inmates. When you go to the show it is quite long, a little over two hours. If you move the bar ahead one hour and twenty minutes it should be shortly before the interview starts.
We also talked about the youth in juvenile detention and how children are treated in schools using cops for discipline instead of detention, and putting handcuffs on them and seating them in the rear seat of a patrol car.
We talked about the book I’m writing about Jamie’s life, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can find chapters on the blog. It’s more than half done and the editing process has begun.
We also discussed the piano music I’m writing for the book which will be included inside the back cover. At the end of the show one of my more recent pieces will be played.
This is the first of hopefully more media I will be doing over time to advertise the book that I hope will lead to being able to lecture on the prison industry. When Jamie is finally released he will be able to join me. He wants to work with the youth using his life as an example, in hopes of being able to turn their lives around before they, too, end up in the system. One in three black males end up in prison. Contrary to racist belief it is not because crime is in their genes. It is because of government pushing the War of Drugs on to black men’s shoulders making you believe through the media that they are dangerous.
Kids don’t understand the ramification of their choices until it’s too late. When someone has been incarcerated for a long time, and Jamie has been locked up for 14 years counting time in juvenile detention. Unfortunately, the four years in juvy was not because he committed a crime. It was because he defended his mother from a cop who illegally entered their home. He injured his mother and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He hit the cop with a broom. It cost him the rest of his high school years and four years of his life.
This story needs to be shared. Unfortunately, it happens far to often to too many black youth. I am asking for you to please share this on your own social media. The success of the book will be determined by how well this info gets pushed through sites on the web. It bring so much encouragement to Jamie as he sit in his cell 23 hours a day, working his way again, up through the levels. He has received letters from some of you. Knowing someone cares enough to write matters more than you know.
Thank you for tuning in to the show. Let me know what you think.
On the show, we look back at the career of Ronnie Corbett. Why both the UK steel industry and Qatar’s World cup are in tatters. And can Rihanna make it 3 weeks in number 1 in the Itunes Power rankings?
All that plus this weeks post of the week: What Am i reflecting by Nancy Ruminski.
This weeks new artist showcase: The Ellipsis, Robyn Sherwell and Mt.Wolf
Two interviews: one with last week’s new artist showcase star, Salix Willow. And Sonni Quick with one of the most hardhitting interviews we have ever done, talking about the US prison system and Jamie Cummings who has epilepsy and how he’s been treated in there.
Over the past year I’ve written about Alonza several times. I’ve had the pleasure of skyping with him many times – a deep and thoughtful man trying to figure out how to begin his life again in a world that caused him pain. We have read frequently the past year what effects are of solitary confinement. Because of what happened to Kalief Browder and his suicide caused by abuse and solitary confinement the law was changed and kids could no longer be held like that. Alonza had just turned 16 and California had just changed the law to try 16 year old kids as adults and he was the first one. He became their poster child/adult. He made it through 13 years but came out in a million tiny pieces he has been struggling to put back together. I’d like to say that today everything is great. I know he wishes it were. But the reality is the same as someone who has come back from war. On the outside everything seems to be okay, but the glue holding the pieces together never really dries. It is fragile and easily broken. He is safer inside his lonely room than facing the world outside.
I hope he someday heals. He’s a special person. He will always have a piece of my heart as I hold a piece of his.
Below the video is a link to other poetry. Below that is the piece Frontline did on him when he was released.
At a time when many white students are preparing for their life by going to college, many black youth are preparing each other by learning how to evade the police, because they know it’s just a matter of time before they become a target. This is not a joke. Black kids KNOW it’s just a matter of time before they will be harassed by cops for absolutely no reason. When they are old enough to drive many get pulled over an average of once a week. There is no violation. They are just black and cops often do whatever they can to find a reason to arrest them, smash their windows, use their tazers even in front of their children, terrifying them. They don’t care what they do in front of children. Everyone has seen the videos. I have two half black grandsons. If I didn’t, I could like all white people and say, they probably did something to deserve it. It really affects my life because I’m white and cops smile at me. But they won’t be smiling at my grandsons, so I’m in this fight for the long haul. One in three black men go to prison at some point in their lives. With 2 grandsons what are the odds of at least one of them will go to prison? A black man doesn’t need to be guilty. We hear often of inmates being set free because they were finally proven not quilty. Over 70% of these men are black.
It starts in childhood. Kids play act what they see. A game of tag becomes instead, pretending to be a cop and a criminal and learn how to arrest each other and pretend to cuff their playmates and do cavity searches. This is real life to black children.
What makes it even harder for black youth is the way schools punishment them, starting with the attitude of many teachers. Racism in schools is rampant. Many teachers teach racism by their actions.Why is it that teachers find it so easy to expel a black child, when a white child mihg de only get detention for doing the exact same thing? An after school fight for two white boys more than likely will end with their parents being called. If you are black, the police will be called and they get their first taste of jail and end up with fines. If they can’t pay that fine they are arrested again. Minority families with lower incomes are affected the most. When a child is removed from school it begins a spiral down that becomes an inability to finish a high school education. Forget college.
This is what happened to Jamie’s life, and there was no one who could help him or his mother change the outcome. By the time he was in his mid teens with his high school years just beginning, the court system was doing it’s damnedest to end his possibilities. He is 33 and he still isn’t allowed to take the test to get his GED. He’s a smart man. He would love to have an education. With more time to go and still having no education, what are his chances?
It takes more than wishful thinking. Because there is no one else willing to do the legwork, I have research to find out what his options are. There is a school for inmates in Dallas called the Windham School. http://www.windhamschooldistrict.org/
Educating inmates lowers the recidivism rate back to prison. Getting a GED, learn a trade or take college classes. I don’t know yet what it will take to get Jamie involved or when it can begin, but it is worth finding out. I can only think that something like this would help him with parole. This isn’t automatically offered to inmates. An inmate need someone on the outside who takes the time to find out about it. Overall, there needs to be more stress on inmate education if you want to slow down the revolving door for those who want to get off the ride.
This past year the subjects of prisons and decreasing the population has been a hot topic. Are the politicians serious? Or is it all talk? In this election year I have heard more hate talk and about people that shouldn’t be allowed to live here. The KKK is endorsing Donald Trump. If by chance he wins, what will they expect back? A large amount of people think we should have never freed the slaves. Are these the people who become cops who kill and teachers who expel black kids? Who taught these adults when they were kids that hating another race was okay? Who taught the adults today they are superior? Because somebody did. Are these people who think they are better, because they are white ever going to want these black people back into a society that doesn’t want them there in the first place?
This presidential election year has shck n me how hateful, cruel and judgemental the people of America can be and it scares me. Politicians have to loudly proclaim the are Christians but their actions at makes a country great, since making America great again seems to be such an issue, is the people in it. When I see the incitement of hate, and the cheering that goes with, when I see a candidate say he wants to punch a man at his really and people cheer it’s like watching America vomit all over itself.
Racial differences in school discipline are widely known, and black students across the United States are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled, according to Stanford researchers.
Yet the psychological processes that contribute to those differences have not been clear – until now.
“The fact that black children are disproportionately disciplined in school is beyond dispute,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jennifer Eberhardt in an interview. “What is less clear is why.”
In the study, “Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students,” which was recently published in the journal Psychological Science, Eberhardt and Stanford psychology graduate student Jason Okonofua reported on two experimental studies that showed that teachers are likely to interpret students’ misbehavior differently depending on the student’s race.
In the studies, real-world primary and secondary school teachers were presented with school records describing two instances of misbehavior by a student. In one study, after reading about each infraction, the teachers were asked about their perception of its severity, about how irritated they would feel by the student’s misbehavior, about how severely the student should be punished, and about whether they viewed the student as a troublemaker.
A second study followed the same protocol and asked teachers whether they thought the misbehavior was part of a pattern and whether they could imagine themselves suspending the student in the future.
The researchers randomly assigned names to the files, suggesting in some cases that the student was black (with a name such as DeShawn or Darnell) and in other cases that the student was white (with a name such as Greg or Jake).
Across both studies, the researchers found that racial stereotypes shaped teachers’ responses not after the first infraction but rather after the second. Teachers felt more troubled by a second infraction they believed was committed by a black student rather than by a white student.
In fact, the stereotype of black students as “troublemakers” led teachers to want to discipline black students more harshly than white students after two infractions, Eberhardt and Okonofua said. They were more likely to see the misbehavior as part of a pattern, and to imagine themselves suspending that student in the future.
“We see that stereotypes not only can be used to allow people to interpret a specific behavior in isolation, but also stereotypes can heighten our sensitivity to behavioral patterns across time. This pattern sensitivity is especially relevant in the schooling context,” Eberhardt said.
These results have implications beyond the school setting as well.
As Okonofua said, “Most social relationships entail repeated encounters. Interactions between police officers and civilians, between employers and employees, between prison guards and prisoners all may be subject to the sort of stereotype escalation effect we have identified in our research.”
Both Okonofua and Eberhardt suggested that useful interventions with teachers would help them to view student behavior as malleable rather than as a reflection of a fixed disposition, such as that of troublemaker.
While racial disparities can be lessened by psychological interventions that help improve black students’ behaviors in class, it is also important to understand how that behavior is interpreted by teachers and school authorities, Okonofua said.
The youth are our greatest commodity. We have left them a crappy world to live in because of the greed of certain corporations. It will be up to them to fix the problems we created. But all children are not created equally. Not all children have the good fortune to be born in good neighborhoods or go to good school in districts that have effective teachers. Which of these teachers are willing to teach kids who are raised in poverty with all the effects that come with it? The NRA has an agenda that insists everyone has a right to carry a gun. Teachers should carry. Students at universities should carry. They want everyone to carry a gun. Everyone means everyone. In some neighborhoods that means kids won’t survive very long because they all carry guns. More guns does not fix a gun problem. Where does it stop? How does it stop?
Most of these youths don’t come from stable homes with two parents, or even one parent. Many are in foster homes. Kids don’t ask to be born into violence, and they have no one to teach them a better way of life. They certainly don’t see a better way of life around them. The easiest way to deal with these children is for us to lock them up and throw away the key. They become the next batch of adult inmates the corporations use as money makers. The justice system doesn’t have enough help to deal with these kids. One probation officer may have up to 200 kids to monitor. How is that possible? It isn’t, so the kids become fodder. They slip through the cracks. There is no easy answer. But the bottom line is – these kids are people. They weren’t “born bad”. They were born without someone to give a shit. My question to you is: What are You going to do to help? I read what people say on facebook, when they shoot off their mouths about how fetus is a baby, even if it is only a 24 hour old clump of cells and that “baby” has a right to be born! That baby has the right to have a life, too, don’t you think? Or do you think, BFD, it’s not my problem. If you are going to take the time to adamantly, and even violently, vocalize your opinion that this baby has to be born, because that is what God wants, then you should also be prepared to do something to make sure this baby has a decent chance at a good life. You shouldn’t want one without the other. Not your problem? Did these kids deserve a chance the moment they were born? How does the overcrowding of prisons – paid for with your taxes – ever change if we don’t do something.
We hear, “Let’s Make America Great Again!” Fancy words that have absolutely no meaning if everyone waits around for someone else to do something. What’s the plan? All I hear are words and campaign hype. What are you going to do to help this country? Many people are all talk and no action. If we don’t raise the youth to be better, then nothing changes and we continue to implode.
Those who declare every baby has the “Right to Life”, should be saying, “Every baby has the right to have a good life.” We can’t insist people have to be born just for the sake of being born. There needs to be an agenda going with it which enables unwanted children to at least have a chance to be something other than profit for prison corporations. But there are no programs to enable children to have that. Most of the budget for this country goes into the military, instead of going into quality of life for the people. We all complain about the things our government doesn’t do for us. Us – means everyone. If all people do is complain, it never fixes anything.
I’ve heard people say, “No one made these kids commit a crime. They had a choice. But they have no wisdom, and no one to teach them right from wrong. Neither did you, when you were a kid. For many, there is no one to teach them. No one checks their homework or even knows if they went to school that day. The school to prison pipeline is a very real thing. There is no one at home to feed them, or buy them clothing. Many steal or sell drugs for these things. No one encourages them. If you are someone who believes that every clump of impregnated cells deserves to live, yet you do NOTHING to actually help one of these children have a life, then your negativity about abortions is meaningless, because you don’t do anything to help . If all life is precious – it includes these kids, too, whether they come from your home town, or from the ghetto.
Once these kids go through juvenile detention, experiencing the same physical abuse, sexual abuse, lack of mental illness help, and little chance of an education, they will never have a life most of us would consider “Normal”. Isn’t that a shame? You fought so hard for them to be born. If you care about the welfare of children, yet do nothing to help even one of them, then your opinion also means nothing. If you think they deserve to get life sentences because they had a life where no one showed them how life had value – “Get this broken child off the streets!”, then your opinion has no value. If you believe you are a compassionate person, yet have no compassion, what does that make you?
I know there are people who care. Maybe you want to do something, but don’t know what. If you are reading this online, then you can research options. You can write letters to organizations, or letters to editors. You can express yourself among your friends. You can befriend kids. You can stop assuming all black kids are thugs. You can volunteer at a school. You can help with homework. There is so much you can do. If you have a positive effect on the life of even one child, the ripple effect can spread to many others. Stop complaining about crime and start doing something to help change it.
When they were taken to juvenile court no one cared. Many were moved from one abusive foster parent to another. When they started doing petty crimes no one cared. When they ended back in juvenile court, the courts were too swamped and probation officers never checked on them to see if they were in school. They were sent to home probation. No one cared.
The saddest casualties of this rush to throw as many people in prison as possible, are the children. Yes, children often do serious crimes. Many of these kids were thrown away. They had abusive, neglectful, or addicted parents. Many were raised by the state and the only mentoring they got was from other, often young, people in the same shoes. These are ” at risk kids” with no wisdom, and no understanding of what they were doing to their lives and it doesn’t have to be that way. It is so sad. It rips my heart out.
Only their friends cared. Their barrio, their homies protected each other. They survived. The courts often did nothing. There was no time or resources to get these kids the help they needed. There are too many of them. The crime rate by children soared. Then one day the child finally did something really bad and this time they noticed. Now the court said,
“You are a horrible child, you’ve been in trouble for years. We told you to stay in school and you didn’t. You can’t be helped. We’re going to send you over to adult court, and they can deal with you.” What a relief they felt.
22 States certify children as young as 7 to be tried in adult court. By now their lives are lost. They become habitual offenders. They know no other life. They have no idea what it feels like to being loved, cared for, and raised to be the best they can be. 70% of all foster children end up in prison, and female foster children are 600x more likely to have a baby they struggle to raise on their own, but now they have someone who loves them unconditionally.
Sign up on the email list for the book “Inside The Forbidden Outside” currently being written about the troubled youth of Jamie Cummings that led to 17 years in prison of which he currently has 7 to go. Learn how he turned his life around. When he gets out, he wants to work with kids to teach them how not to do what he did. It is so hard to reintegrate into society and have a good life. Prejudice against ex-felons makes it hard to live. Proceeds from this book will help him get started again.
The saddest casualties of this rush to throw as many people in prison as possible, are the children. Yes, children often do serious crimes. Many of these kids were thrown away by abusive, neglectful, or addicted parents. Many were raised by the state and the only mentoring they could get was from other, often young, people in their same shoes. They were ” at risk kids” for a long and no one paid attention. Kids with no wisdom, no real understanding of what they were doing to their lives. So so sad. It rips my heart out.
When they were delinquent at school no one cared. When they were taken to juvenile court no one cared. Many were moved from one abusive foster parent to another. When they started doing petty crimes no one cared. When they ended back in juvenile court, the courts were too swamped and probation officers never checked on them to see if they were in school. They were sent to home probation. No one cared.
Only their friends cared. Their barrio, their homies protected each other. They survived. No one taught them right from wrong and no one punished them. The courts often did nothing. There was no time or resources to get these kids the help they needed. There are too many of them. The crime rate by children soared. Then one day the child finally did something really bad and they noticed. Now the court said,
You are a horrible child, you’ve been in trouble for years. We told you to stay in school and you didn’t. You can’t be helped. We’re going to send you over to adult court and they can deal with you.
22 States certify children as young as 7 to be tried in adult court. By now their lives are lost. They often become habitual offendersrs. They know no other life. They have no idea what a life is like being loved and cared for and raised to be the best they can be. 70% of all foster children end up in prison and female foster children are 600x more likely to have a baby they struggle to raise.
Although this is a different issue – pro lifers, abortion abolitionists have no concern for a baby after it is born. They only want it born. Life is sacred they say. But when these babies are discarded because they can’t be cared for their life is not so sacred anymore. Now they want them thrown in the trash. We did this. Many of these children didn’t have to turn out this way. These babies often end up as one of these children and it is a goddamn crying shame.
Unless you have a child – or know a child who is “at-risk” you don’t give it much thought. We read a lot about gangs and the violence that comes from it be we don’t understand why it happens or about the kids that get caught up in in it. The violence has increased so much over the years and the court system that is supposed to take care of it – can’t – it so the easiest thing to do is to either look the other way, or lock them up and get them off the street. What they don’t do is get them the help they need at a time where some of them can be saved. Juvenile courts are too chaotic. The don’t have the manpower or the resources adult courts have. Many crimes can’t be proven. Witnesses don’t show up. The reschedule court dates so often the people involved give up and don’t show up. When that happens the case is dismissed. Finally the kids are old enough to push over to adult court and have them tried there. So many of these kids are crying out for help and no one gives a crap. Case loads are so heavy they don’t have time.
If you live in a city that has a lot of gang activity, the kids who don’t have parents who end up in foster care also end up getting sucked into the life of a gang because at least now they have people in their life who care about them. Many of these people came from the same broken homes. They know how that feels. This cycle keeps churning out people who have to survive somehow. They don’t have educations. They can’t get good jobs. So, for them, crime pays. They start making regular visits to juvenile court, but there is no help. If they had been helped their life could have been different. ‘
States have gone back and forth over when it is okay to try kids as adults, especially when they do adult type crimes. Finally they have released the harm it causes to keep them in solitary confinement. Why anyone thinks it isn’t harmful to adults is beyond me. Maybe because by that time most of them have lives that are already ruined. To ruin someone so young with isolation gives that minor no chance. It’s such a shame that it had to take Kalief Browder committing suicide when he got out, to wake “them” up from the outcry from the public. America won’t even admit we keep keep adults in solitary for the decades we do. We don’t torture inmates they say.
It is easy to see that the way we deal minors only makes certain that when they get out, they will be full fledged criminals because they have no concept of how to live. They have more than likely never experienced anything close to having a normal life. I say “more than likely” because there has been a greater trend toward children coming from “good” homes and still deciding that the life of a “gangsta” has more appeal and excitement. But just like the sentences given out to older criminals, those children are looked at as having more promise and worth rehabilitating and get more breaks within the system. What helps is they have family support who show up at court hearings and typically hire real attorneys who have gone over their cases and planned a strategy so they don’t end up in prison at 16. Most juvenile offenders don’t get to see their attorney until the are sitting at a desk in front of the judge who will decide whether they stay in the juvenile system or proceed to prison.
If they go to prison they are subject to the same system as adults, which means, no rehabilitation and being subjected to adult predators. They come out with a felony record they will never escape from. Education becomes extremely hard to get and their spiral down happens quickly. The law isn’t set up to benefit minors. Juvenile courts are not allowed to consider why the child is there. What is his background? They can only look at the offense. But where do these kids come from? Why did it get to the point wher3e it became hopeless? Why wasn’t the child helped when there was plenty of time to do it, but feet were dragged and nothing was done?
These kids became a lost society, kept out of view. They eventually became found a home in prison with the same people they were with on the outside; friends back with friends. They never had anyone who cared so they gravitated to the only people who loved them, people like themselves. Of course there are exceptions. There are kids that just seem determined ruin any chance they had. They go against what their parents tried to provide for them who don’t understand what they did wrong or couldn’t see in time to fix. Maybe there was nothing that could be done. But I want to talk about those who had no choice. Those who were born into a life that pushed them into a life of crime because it was all they knew.
I write to several inmates about their life and how they feel about where they are. I want to tell you about one who recently confided in me:
“I want to explain the way culture and the environment I lived in all my life formed my outlook. Blacks are not the only ones being racially targeted. Growing up I remember if white people in cop cars saw you they were going to stop you. I remember that no matter what, you would be searched. Driving, they’d pull you over. It didn’t matter if there was a reason to pull you over. If you ran and they caught you they’d beat you, so you ran faster and you didn’t get caught. Staying there to find out meant you would probably go to jail. Innocence is not a factor. Never was, and it still isn’t.
I’m from the ghetto. There were foothills nearby. At times we’d see the KKK burning crosses in front of black people’s houses. That stopped in the 80’s. In 1992 there were the LA riots because Rodney King was beat up by cops. Only when I received my first prison sentence and reached my 20’s did I learn about the laws. They weren’t even supposed to be allowed to stop and search us for no reason, but the law never seems to apply to the police.
In prison, on paper, they say there are rehabilitation programs. They say that, but in reality there aren’t any. I wanted to go to school. I wanted to learn a better of living but I soon learned that it didn’t mean me. There was no rehabilitation for people like me.
There is a mentality you learn growing up and living like that. The chances of people escaping that life is small. Most don’t. I’m one of the ones who didn’t escape. all those programs for “at-risk” kids never existed back then. I don’t know many kids benefit from them today. Everyone went to jail. Punks went to jail. I accepted that mentality. It was all I knew. It didn’t scare me. In fact, jail was a vacation from an abusive home. Violence was normal to me, so gangbanging was no biggy.
When you see very few people you know not go to jail and many of them die, it become normal. When I got out of jail the first time all my good intentions faded in a second. I got out wanting to do good, but when you encounter a hugh problem, who you really are comes out. Your intentions disappear. It’s engraved in you.
So you ask, why did I go back to prison? Why is it that if I knew the consequences, why am I here? Because that is how it was. I had no place else to go. It is the only experience I knew.”
This man was raised in a violent home where he got beat every day. There was violence all around him. He didn’t have parents who made sure he had good food every day and went to school. There was no Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny. There were no family Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties. The kids I grew up with all had these things. We had families that cared. I’m sure violence existed but it never entered in my life. If you had his life what would you do? You would bond with other kids who had a life who could relate to yours. They were your family. You never really knew there was any other kind of life you could experience. There was no choice. You would end up in prison.
There many kids who don’t have families. Maybe the state took them away because of drugs and neglect. Many of the parents died and there was no place for the kids to go. We have all heard horror stories. The juvenile system is overloaded with kids who have no place to go. They get shifted between multiple foster home which are also rife with drug abuse and violence. There aren’t enough case workers who can take the time to care even if they wanted to. Nothing is done in a timely manner. Even when there is someone who is willing to take these kids in, the paperwork is insurmountable. The kids get lost in the system. They find themselves in and out of court until eventually they get old enough to prosecute. One more person locked up. Another one to take his place.
80% of those incarcerated went through the foster care system. Those are scary numbers. Doesn’t that tell you that if there were a better way of dealing with these throw away kids the prison population would go down? Isn’t it time something better should be done? Haven’t we had enough generations of throwaway kids?
Jamie started in the school to prison pipeline at the age of sixteen because a cop had a vendetta against his family. He literally pushed his way into their home, knocked his mother down and broke her wrist. Jamie defended his mother. Was that enough reason to put him in juvenile detention until he was 21, unable to get even a GED? What kind of job was he supposed to get. He might have legally been an adult, but he had no experience to draw on. He had also spent extended time in solitary confinement. In Juvy it was called “Behavior Modification Program” or BMP.
I recently started reading a book that was published in 1997. The title is,“No Matter How Loud I Shout -A Year In The Life Of Juvenile Court” – by Edward Humes. It takes place in juvenile courts in LA. The courts then, and now have no idea how to handle children criminals. Some are hardened criminals while still in their early teens and some get mixed up in something and learn their lesson. Some come from the streets and some come from the middle and upper middle income families where they have every opportunity a child could want. The conflict is when to prosecute them as adults. There can’t be one rule that covers everything that changes at an exact moment yet this is what they try to do. Are kids responsible for their actions and at one age. Some get their lives ruined and some get let go until the next crime they commit. It’s a tough call.
During this time this book was written I lived in LA until my children were teens. I went through rough times with my kids. When my son and daughter were 15 and 18 we moved away. I had to get them away. Educating them in public schools was impossible. I pulled them out of bad schools and put them in other bad schools hoping they would be better. But the writing was on the wall if we stayed. We loved north to a small town. My son got his act together and started working hard. My daughter got pregnant and had her first baby at 16.
When I read today about the juvenile courts in LA in the 90’s, knowing how easily it could have been my children I was reading about, it is scary. Today they are 35 and 38 and they have their own teenagers to worry about. It is much worse it today than it was in the 90’s. Kids have less and less respect for teachers or anyone in a position of authority. So many have less respect for themselves as well. They were never taught respect in their homes. Many parents wanted to be “friends” with their children instead of parents. These teenagers I am reading about in this book are in their 30’s now. Are they alive? Are they in prison?
As parents we want to say it won’t happen to our children. It does, and when they grab hold of your child, or your grandchildren, the system doesn’t plan on letting go until they have sucked every possible way of making money from them. Look at Jamie. He is now 32. He STILL doesn’t have a GED. Without that, how can he take other educational courses? How can he learn about something he is interested in when he doesn’t even know what that is?
Are there bad kids out there? Absolutely. Bad parents in bad neighborhoods, and bad parents in good neighborhoods. Some parents don’t want to believe their child would do these things, but they do. There is a saying, “If you continue to do what you always done you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” Parents need to have a better perception of the life outside their children are exposed to. There is no one protecting them. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you are from or how much money you make. Some of the things my children tell me now they did 20 years ago had my jaw on the floor, similar to the things I told my parents long after the fact. We were lucky. Really lucky. Not everyone is.
In the past few years “The Law” has upped the ante. Now, instead of handling disciplinary issues that previously called for detention, being sent to the principle’s office or parents were called – now it is the police who called, who come and handcuff the children in the classroom and escort them out. Quite often the police are already located on school grounds replacing guidance counselors. They are also often taken into a courtroom in handcuffs, too. Why? Do the officers fear for their safety or is it for effect? Often the reason is not justified and does untold damage to the child’s self-esteem. Sadly, this affects black children more than it does white children and even Hispanic children. White children learn early in life that black is not as good as white and they carry that attitude into their adult lives and a new generation of racist attitudes is born.
An already bad situation with juvenile courts has been made worse. More adult criminals are cultivated. Black children learn their lives don’t have as much value. The juvenile courts are so overcrowded. There is no time for anyone to care. We need to do more to help in some way. Too many people are short in help and long in opinions and the children are thrown under the bus.
Since the late 1980s, at-risk teens have been subjugated to terrible injustices. Being socially labeled super-delinquents by politicians and media, legally tried as adults under get-tough legislation, and psychologically stunted by zero tolerance in schools and abuse in correctional facilities.
Today, you would imagine that America has found a better way to deal with juvenile delinquency and youth-gang crimes, but unfortunately, many states still implement outdated, misguided policies that continue to funnel teens into the juvenile justice system. This populates our prison systems. And to make matters worse, recidivism keeps increasing this rate—that is, teens become damaged goods after cycling through “the system” and often return to prison as adults.
According the Annie E. Casey Foundation, despite the good intentions and regulations in our system, teens do learn how to become better criminals from inmates, and…