October is Youth Justice Action Month, so let’s take stock of what we’ve learned about our juvenile justice system just this year.
About 50,000 youth are caught in a system that disproportionately imprisons African Americans and Latinos. Some teens, including Dequan Jackson, are kept behind bars not because they are a danger to society but because they cannot afford court fees. Others experience appalling treatment: just last month in Kentucky, staff allegedly stood idly by as a 16-year-old had a seizure and died in custody. Far too often, juvenile offenders are housed in facilities—like Wisconsin’s Lincoln Hills, which is under federal investigation for abuse—that could leave them worse off.
These stories are heartbreaking, but they need not be disheartening. Coupled with awareness of the problems should be awareness of the tremendous progress being made to change the way our juvenile justice system operates. Advocates across the country are hard at work to create more effective, humane alternatives that will help young offenders stay out of the criminal justice system as adults.
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Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive