"I was certified as an adult when I was 17 years old and have been locked up for the last 15 years," Robert writes from the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Lino Lakes.
He titles his piece in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder with a call to action: "Invest in youth offenders."
And he doesn't leave you wondering why.
PRISON FELLOWSHIP ACADEMY
Robert cites the critical life-skills training and leadership development he received through the biblically based Prison Fellowship Academy™. That training opened the door for a youth mentor program at his facility. He and several members from his class at the Academy meet a few times a week with incarcerated youth. Having been down a similar path, Robert knows that a positive influence is crucial in a young person’s life.
He thanks the DOC at Lino Lakes for allowing much-needed programs like these.
He also spotlights the need for proactive policies "that can effectively and positively intervene in the trajectory kids are on when they enter the Juvenile Detention Center."
Only then can we find lasting solutions that confront the underlying issues leading to juvenile delinquency, Robert says.
Beyond the gates, he adds, these youth need community support.
"They need to be embraced and given a chance to continue to build on an alternative sense of belonging and identity from the one they developed in the streets," he says.
JUSTICE THAT RESTORES
Research has shown that a "get-tough" mentality, while intended to reduce crime, has often proven to do more harm than good. Especially when applied to troubled youth. That's why many states are moving toward reforms: specializing legal defense for youth, raising the age to be classified as an adult, and limiting the juvenile justice system's dealings with indirect issues (e.g., mental health and school discipline).
Prison Fellowship®'s advocacy team is working to advance God’s vision for justice that restores. You can join us by becoming an advocate in your state! Check out our justice reform resources to get started. You can also find out more about the issues surrounding juvenile justice reform by clicking here.