Tens of thousands of children are incarcerated in youth prisons every day; thousands more are also locked up in adult prisons and jails. Imagine a child locked alone in a small empty room for days, weeks, or months. While many youth prisons are called “schools,” few of these facilities provide quality education services, nor do they provide access to mental health care or other services children need to heal.
Too many incarcerated youth are subject to solitary confinement — often for 22-24 hours per day — strip searches, shackles, and chemical sprays. These abusive practices cause physical injuries, emotional trauma and psychological harm, and interrupt healthy development. Youth in prison also face physical and sexual violence, compounding the trauma imposed by their isolation and separation from their families, friends and communities.
The juvenile justice system was established to rehabilitate children and provide them second chances as they make the transition to adulthood. Research confirms that locking children up for long periods of time — especially under the harsh conditions that we see all too frequently in the juvenile justice system — causes more harm than good and does little to protect our communities.
Our children deserve more.
Images: © Richard Ross, juvenile-in-justice.com