Published: Jan 01, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Dec 31, 2012 12:11 PM
There is an issue that people just now seem to be hearing about. It affects all youth 16 and up and deals with the prison industrial complex system. This issue is better known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
For those who havent heard of it yet, it is a law that says kids 16 and 17 can be tried and placed in the adult prison system.
For some people, this news may not sound so shocking because of the horror stories we hear about violent teens on a rampage, but the truth is that only 3 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds in prison are accused of serious felonies, while 97 percent are accused of low level and non-violent crimes, according to the website actionforchildren.com. These crimes will stay marked on their records in the adult system, making it hard to get jobs and succeed in life.
The difference between the adult system and the juvenile system is that in the adult system the parents dont have a say, services or counseling is not required, and there is no school or education requirement.
It was a major shock to me when I find out this law has been going on for over 100 years in two states, North Carolina and New York. But the crazy thing about it is that the misdemeanors and low-level felonies that are bringing kids into the adult prison system are as little as stealing a 98-cent bag of chips or even getting into a school fight. Most parents dont realize their kids are at risk of getting locked up in adult systems for petty crimes, and most 16- and 17-year-old teens dont know their rights and are unaware of the long-term effects for their actions.
This issue hasnt personally affected me, but I have seen many videos showing people who know the struggles of having been, currently are, or have a loved one who has been locked up in the prison system.
One of the clips that has stuck with me shows Tracy McClard, a mother of a boy named Jonathan.
In the United States of America, when did that ever become right? she said. When you sentence an adult to prison, thats one thing, but when you sentence a child to prison, youre not only sentencing them to the prison term, youre sentencing them to legal child abuse, because theyre sexually assaulted, theyre physically assaulted, theyre tormented, theyre scared to death, enough to where
they kill themselves like Jonathan.
You might as well just sentence them to death.
As I watched her speak, her eyes were full of tears. I could only imagine her pain. Although, I cant truly understand it, since I am not a parent, I could feel it as I stared into her tearful eyes and soon tears started to fill mine.
Like McClard mentioned, putting kids in prisons with adults makes them easy targets for legalized abuse.
On the Action for Children website, it says, Kids who serve time in adult prisons are more than twice as likely to become re-convicted later of other crimes as youth who are punished and rehabilitated in the juvenile system, and its true. When you expose kids to hard-core criminals, they will be more likely to become hard-core criminals themselves and thats if they even survive.
A report by the Washington-based group, Campaign for Youth Justice, states, people under 18 who are housed in adult jails are 19 times more likely to commit suicide while behind bars than young people on the outside.
There are things that people are doing to fight these laws. Programs such as Action for Children are trying to raise awareness. They are promoting the Raise the Age campaign and have documentary films and other materials to help people understand the impact on families and society when children are put in the adult prison system.
Kids truly are the future, so take a stand and make sure that they get the opportunity to be the best they can be.