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Putting kids in an adult prison is child abuse

Straight Talk
by Nimfa L. Estrellado

Children are not adults. Their minds are not as developed as the adult mind. True the system may be too easy on juvenile offenders. No child should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. No child should be put in an adult prison in isolation or in the general population.

If tried as an adult the child should be sent to a youth facility until they are twenty one and at twenty one there should be a parole hearing. The parole board should be staffed with psychologists and experts in the field of child development. If parole is denied they could then be sent to an adult facility and have periodic parole hearings.

Our system has gone overboard with the use of adult laws on children. Even in cases of murder. Instead of using adult laws we need to strengthen juvenile laws. I feel that the lowering of the age of majority to twelve was a mistake. When most states increased the drinking age back to twenty one they realized that it was a mistake.

Putting kids in an adult prison is child abuse. There is no excuse for it. No one under the age of 18 should be in an adult prison. The youth prisoners should be segregated base on their violent tendencies. Not the violence of the crime committed.

We are born with a good side and a bad side. Like in the cartoons with a devil and an angel looking like the character we many times have internal strife. With some of us good wins most of the time and to others bad wins most of the time. With others it may be 50/50.

What happens to us in life can help either side prevail. It depends on what happens and how strong one side is. We are in a constant state of change. The change may be good or bad depending on what is happening to us. In most cases a person who is a criminal may be rehabilitated no mater how old and how bad. The problem in prison is that the powers that be do not want the prisoners rehabilitated. They want to keep the revolving door working and the prisoners coming back. They make money off the prisoners. In many cases they are just mean people who are worse that those they are guarding.

To charge children as adults is wrong however the juvenile courts are also failing to do the job of rehabilitating. If a 16 year old goes to a youth facility they will be out when they are 18. They may not be ready.

In the case violent crimes there should be a minimum and maximum as there is with the adult system no matter what the age. The youth facility must work with the prisoner’s mental health and with rehabilitation. The prisoners must be trained for the world they will be put into and they should go to halfway houses to prepare for their entry into society.

Every year the prisoner should be evaluated by people who know what they are doing and care about what they are doing. If it is decided give the prisoner parole that they should go into a release program that makes sure that they can make it. They will go on work release, (possibly a jail or halfway house or a jail then a halfway house.) Next they should be given a support group and a parole officer who cares.

The youth facilities should be close to the adult prisons and the youthful offenders should be given mentors from the adult prison. These would be adult prisoners who want to help youthful offenders go strait. They could write to each other and they could meet in support groups at the adult prison.

Children sell drugs and commit crimes because they know that they will not spend time in prison. They know that they may spend a short time in a youth facility but to them it is worth it and it improves their rep in the streets. In some cases boot camps work but in some cases they do more harm than good.

We need other options but trying them as adults is not one of them. Our youth justice system should not just be about punishing crime, important though that is; it should also be about reforming offenders. It should provide discipline, purpose, supervision and someone who cares – elements that have all too often been missing from these young lives.