The United States imprisons more of its people than that of any other nation. And the youth justice system is not immune.
Guest writer Scott Larson of Straight Ahead Ministries shares the needs of youths in the juvenile justice system and how we can help.
"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.
According to this article, it's not uncommon for minors to be tried as adults in New Jersey. It's even less uncommon for them to be a minority.
Here's how it works:
If a young person—under the age of 18—commits a serious-enough crime, like robbery, drug trafficking, or murder, a county prosecutor can petition the court to try the minor as an adult.
Kevin Bethel was in charge of school police in Philadelphia when he started researching juvenile crime.
“I was shocked to see we were locking up 1,600 kids a year,” Bethel tells Philly.com. “And I was shocked to see the offenses kids were being locked up for.”
For Prison Fellowship Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Craig DeRoche, justice reform is more than a job, it’s a passion developed from personal experience.
At the age of 34, DeRoche was elected Speaker of the House in the Michigan State Legislature—the youngest person to ever hold that position.
When David arrived at San Quentin prison two years ago to serve an 11-year sentence for a crime he committed as a minor, he didn’t expect to find hope or a second chance. But thanks to a department of corrections-sponsored program that gives young prisoners more access to education and rehabilitative programming, David has been given both.
Roughly 60,000 teenagers currently reside in juvenile detention facilities across the United States. While detained, these young men and women are separated from their friends, family—and the schools which they had been attending.
A recent feature on the PBS Newshour takes a closer look at the importance of educating youth behind bars, focusing on the efforts being made at one facility in Lowell, Massachusetts.