Playgrounds, Not Prisons
- 1 Post
Every night, while most American students are sleeping soundly or toiling away at a homework assignment, nearly ten thousand juveniles across the country have been condemned to spend their nights behind bars in adult prisons because of automatic transfer laws, laws that allow children as young as ten to be tried in court as adults. It’s time for us to reach out to the children sentenced to suffer.
In most states, children as young as fourteen years old can be tried as an adult if they commit a violent felony or have a prior record. In states like Indiana or Vermont, this age limit is reduced to ten. While the average American ten year old spends their days drinking juice boxes and playing video games, for some kids, their days are spent in and out of court, and, if sentenced, in an adult prison, where they are subject to physical and mental abuse. However, the problem doesn’t end here. This inhumane issue is further exacerbated as we see that about 3000 children nationwide are being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Life imprisonment without parole is a punishment most of us imagine was created for tough, hardened criminals. But children? Youth, who need guidance, rehabilitation, and love are the ones being treated like tough and hardened criminals. And sadly, children as young as eleven have been tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison without a second glance. Is the illusion of justice that we have really worth the innocence, the futures, and the lives of these kids?
And what’s even more unjust is that bias often plays a key part when it comes to determining who is tried and sentenced as an adult. One national study finds that in a single year, almost 10 times more black children were committed to adult facilities than white children. When the color of your skin determines your fate, we can see that the problem is even greater than expected. There’s no doubt that a child shouldn’t be denied the right to justice just because of their race, ethnicity, and other factors they have no control over.
And when we delve past the surface of the issue, – past the numbers and statistics, we can see that the problems that these kids face in adult prison are horrific. There’s a reason juvenile court exists—Adult prisons focus on deterrence, not recovery. So what happens when these kids are forced into these abusive adult facilities? Research has shown that children in the adult criminal justice system are 34 times more likely to be arrested and put through this very system again, creating a vicious cycle. The adolescents who embody the problems of this system suffer to the extent where we need to question if this is just or not. Juvenile rehabilitation centers have been proven to give these youth better futures and make them more productive members of society, as opposed to locking them away in adult prisons. These youth cannot, and should not have to deal with the oppressive and violent environment adult facilities are notorious for.
Haunting stories of children forced into the adult criminal justice system still exist. But it’s not too late for us to make a difference. So let’s start today, by looking towards a system that ensures justice for children who belong in playgrounds, not prisons.