What’s It Like For Troubled Teens Where You Live?

What’s it like to be a CASA guardian ad Litem (child protection worker) unable to find safe housing and mental health services for the 14-year-old struggling foster boy in your caseload? This child’s self-harming and violent behaviors could change if there was help to manage behaviors triggered by childhood traumas. These children can go on…

International Rights of the Child Treaty (& why jails are full)

Over 25 years ago the rest of the world (194 nations) decided that children have basic human rights and begin signing the International Rights of the Child Treaty. Under this document, children are to have the rights to education, safety and well being including not to be made soldiers, not to be enslaved).

America is the only nation that has not signed that agreement, largely because we still demand that southern states continue to militarize youth as young as eleven, through military schools.

What’s It Like For Troubled Teens in Minnesota?

What’s it like to be a CASA guardian ad Litem (child protection worker) unable to find safe housing and mental health services for the 14-year-old struggling foster boy in your caseload? His self-harming and violent behaviors could change if he had help to manage childhood traumas. He could go on to lead a productive life.…

Expecting Different Results From Prison for Kids

MN A.G. Keith Ellison’s response to the public outcry for punishment is normal (And that’s a shame).  Our need for punishment over restorative justice is the American way. We don’t care if charging children and youth as adults brings more crime and recidivism.

Police vs Social Worker (when the wrong one shows up)

People suffering from untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in interactions with law enforcement. Recently in Utah, a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police after his mother dialed 911 to request help as her son was experiencing a mental breakdown.

49 % of America’s Black Youth Arrested Before Their 23rd Birthday (40% of White Youth)

This Annie E. Casey Foundation survey of Black youth in February 2021 demonstrates a rising trend of Black youth incarceration Post COVID. 

Black youth in juvenile detention on Feb. 1, 2021, reached a pandemic high, while that of white youth was the second lowest recorded in more than a year.

Grace’s Story (Thank you ChildrensRights.org)

Grace, a Black 15-year old who was sent to a juvenile detention center for failure to submit schoolwork.

In an email to Grace’s caseworker, her teacher stated that Grace was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”

Tens of thousands of children have struggled to adjust to the online learning environment the coronavirus created. ProPublica cites 15,000 high schoolers in Los Angeles alone failing to log in or complete schoolwork. Yet, a judge presiding for Oakland County Family Court Division, ruled in May that not completing schoolwork violated Grace’s probation.

It’s impossible to determine the frequency of cases like Grace’s, but one thing is clear. Children’s health and safety must be prioritized. We will continue urging states to stop admissions and to release kids from juvenile facilities. No child should be in juvenile detention for missing homework.

Metrics of Minnesota’s Child Protection (what does your state measure?)

Recent Star Tribune articles about juvenile justice and explosive growth of crime in our community miss the heart of the matter. We keep putting fires out that could have been prevented. The car jackings, transit crimes and other juvenile violence making life miserable for so many of us didn’t begin when these children became juveniles. It started with traumas suffered in the home mostly caused by parents that suffered the same violence and abuse as children.

For Profit Youth Prisons

Youth are two to three time more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit than adults.

Police interrogations using fabricated statements are most likely why. Kids are more intimidated by law enforcement than adults and they break down faster.

There’s just no upside in sending youth to jail. Incarcerating them for crimes they did not commit is a sign of a dysfunctional system. A system that creates what it was designed to stop.

Investing In Children Not Jails

We the people are serious about continued investment in our punishment model.

Expelling kids from daycare and elementary school is common. Charging youth in adult courts is too. The nation’s Supreme Court recently reinstated lifelong (no chance for release) sentencing for crimes committed by juveniles.

Instead of investing in healing broken children we invest our tax dollars into courts that punish kids from traumatizing violent and toxic homes. Are we bad at math or pro growing crime, criminals and broken communities.

Carjacking From a Juvenile’s Perspective

Most major U.S. cities experienced a huge increase in carjackings in the last two years. Many are violent – all are traumatizing. The majority are committed by juveniles – some of them under 14 years old. Repeat offenders are common. From the perspective of at risk youth and policing…

The violence, excitement and control for disaffected youth makes this an easy and low punishment crime. Courts have been lenient on most of the crimes committed by youth. 

Criminalizing Elementary School Children

When 14-year-old Ryan Turk cut ahead of the lunch line to grab a milk, he didn’t expect to get in trouble. He certainly didn’t plan to end up in handcuffs. But Turk, a black student at Graham Park Middle School, was arrested for disorderly conduct and petty larceny for procuring the 65-cent carton. The state of Virginia is actually prosecuting the case, which went to trial in November.

Changing the rules of the game requires federal, state, and local reforms. With little evidence that police in schools make students safer and plenty that they facilitate harm to students’ liberty and well-being, the Department of Justice should end the cops program’s SRO grants to districts. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for billions that promote unjust school conditions and put kids at greater risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. And students should feel like they can talk to school officials when they have problems without forfeiting their constitutional rights and winding up in the back of police cars.

200,000 Youth Tried As Adults Each Year; Temple University

As former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz so aptly stated, “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”

Vote for mental health services and child friendly programs for at risk children and call your state legislators and tell them to do the same. 

Once these very troubled children become old enough to impact their surroundings they do so in a most troubling manner. That’s why our jails are full and our schools are troubled.

From the study; “In other words, by one mechanism or another, more than 200,000 individuals under the age of 18 are prosecuted in criminal court each year. There are three trends in the data worth noting…

Florida’s Child Protection System Today (it can’t happen here?)

“I’m not for killing kids and stuff” (officer Omar Bellow). For eight seconds officers fired 66 rounds from Glock service weapons towards the children. You can read the NY Times article details here. There is nothing easy about being in law enforcement in America today (or teaching, or social work, health services or child care). The numbers of seriously troubled youth are off the charts and so many children have serious often violent behavior problems. 

Tasered and Tried as Adults

Expelled from elementary school, pregnant in junior high and facing a criminal justice system before they are able to drive a car.

The cost to society in taxes, public health, education and safety is astronomical and the people policing, teaching and caring for these children are stuck in centuries old punishment models that guarantee failure, perpetual pain and broken communities.

American Crime Costs & Statistics

California and Arizona have used failed 3rd grade test scores to assist in forecasting prison capacity growth.  (Corrections Digest, April 12, 2002)

In 2022,  23% of Black and American Indian third graders in Minneapolis MN read at grade level.

6.11.21 NY votes to raise the minimum age of arrest from 7 to 12  and considers prohibiting the shackling of children and youth in family court.

30.2 % of America’s Youth Arrested Before Their 23rd Birthday (25% of us are state wards & special needs people)

This Annie E. Casey Foundation survey of Black youth in February 2021 demonstrates a rising trend of Black youth incarceration Post COVID. 

Black youth in juvenile detention on Feb. 1, 2021, reached a pandemic high, while that of white youth was the second lowest recorded in more than a year.

Grace’s Story (Thank you ChildrensRights.org)

Grace, a Black 15-year old who was sent to a juvenile detention center for failure to submit schoolwork.

In an email to Grace’s caseworker, her teacher stated that Grace was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”

Tens of thousands of children have struggled to adjust to the online learning environment the coronavirus created. ProPublica cites 15,000 high schoolers in Los Angeles alone failing to log in or complete schoolwork. Yet, a judge presiding for Oakland County Family Court Division, ruled in May that not completing schoolwork violated Grace’s probation.

It’s impossible to determine the frequency of cases like Grace’s, but one thing is clear. Children’s health and safety must be prioritized. We will continue urging states to stop admissions and to release kids from juvenile facilities. No child should be in juvenile detention for missing homework.

For Profit Youth Prisons & False Imprisonment

Youth are two to three time more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit than adults.

Police interrogations using fabricated statements are most likely why. Kids are more intimidated by law enforcement than adults and they break down faster.

There’s just no upside in sending youth to jail. Incarcerating them for crimes they did not commit is a sign of a dysfunctional system. A system that creates what it was designed to stop.

Criminalizing Elementary School Children (policing our schools & punishment)

Federal Funding, Zero Tolerance and Inadequate Alternatives mean that more states are policing schools with armed officers. Before the 1970’s police were almost absent from elementary and junior high schools.

Today, armed officers are dealing with an escalation of violence and criminal prosecutions for children as young as 6, 7 and 8. Prosecuting kids in place of using resources to help them adapt destroys the fabric of a child’s life and achieves the exact opposite of what children need and society expects from an elementary or junior high school experience.

There are a significant number of us who believe it more important to punish bad behavior in children than it is to help them develop the skills they need to live among us. When these folks hold sway in education, the institution suffers, the child suffers, and the community gains one more troubled adult a few years later. For too long, America has led the world in crime, incarceration, violence and troubled schools. While not the only reason, treating at risk children with behavioral problems as offenders instead of troubled youth has played a big role.

The articles below are obvious examples of policing and education gone wrong. No child should have to live with this kind of institutional abuse. ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

When 14-year-old Ryan Turk cut ahead of the lunch line to grab a milk, he didn’t expect to get in trouble. He certainly didn’t plan to end up in handcuffs. But Turk, a black student at Graham Park Middle School, was arrested for disorderly conduct and petty larceny for procuring the 65-cent carton. The state of Virginia is actually prosecuting the case, which went to trial in November.

Changing the rules of the game requires federal, state, and local reforms. With little evidence that police in schools make students safer and plenty that they facilitate harm to students’ liberty and well-being, the Department of Justice should end the cops program’s SRO grants to districts. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for billions that promote unjust school conditions and put kids at greater risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. And students should feel like they can talk to school officials when they have problems without forfeiting their constitutional rights and winding up in the back of police cars.

Police vs Social Worker and what happened to an autistic child when the wrong one showed up

Police encounters with mentally ill people can have deadly consequences: according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, people suffering from untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in interactions with law enforcement. Earlier this month in Utah, a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police after his mother dialed 911 to request help as her son was experiencing a mental breakdown.

It Didn’t Start In a Vacuum (crime – impact & statistics)

DJ Tice Star Tribune article recently made crime very real by describing his wife’s rape, his own assault and home burglary along with the awful Barry Latzer assumption that 80% of Americans could become victims of a violent crime in their lifetime.

No obfuscation here.

Crime hurts when it happens to you or someone you love.

What best should be done about crime and punishment is our national conundrum.

Damn the data, “hanging’s too good for em’ and “lock em up” our national chant for fifty years bringing us such data as;

Criminalizing Mental Illness (statistics & stories)

It is upsetting that the only significant authoritative voice speaking to the horrific practice of criminalizing mental illness is Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Stanek’s Star Tribune article today paints the ugly picture of mentally ill patients not charged with any crime, locked up in a tiny, isolated, empty cell for 23 hours a day for months at a time because there is no other place for them.

HCMC downtown is seeing 800 to 1000 emergency psych visits/month, MN hospitals are turning away mental health patients and a very large percentage of people in the juvenile and criminal justice system suffer from diagnosable mental health problems.

200,000 Youth Tried As Adults Each Year; Temple University

My experience with children receiving adequate therapy for the severe trauma and resulting behavior problems that were so indelibly a part of these very young children’s lives was almost non existent.

Once these very troubled children become old enough to impact their surroundings they do so in a most troubling manner. That’s why our jails are full and our schools are troubled.

From the study; “In other words, by one mechanism or another, more than 200,000 individuals under the age of 18 are prosecuted in criminal court each year. There are three trends in the data worth noting.

Go To Jail Go Directly To Jail (and be branded for life)

Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice has stated that 90% of the youth in the Juvenile Justice system have passed through Child Protective Services and that “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”.

Marion Wright Edelman calls this the pipeline to prison & from this volunteer CASA guardian ad Litems perspective it is absolutely true. No other industrialized nation treats its children and juveniles so harshly.

The simple truths below now define our communities and our nation – share them with your legislators (really – if you don’t share this with them they may never know).

Charging juveniles as adults

Privatized Detention Centers (why judges sometimes go to jail)

Ten Cents An Hour

Never Vote Again (stay away)

King Pin Laws

Women In Prison (shackled while giving birth?)

The Face of 12 Year Olds In Jail

Prozac, Children, Juveniles & the Criminal Justice System

Children Locked Up in America (Radio Interview)

Mass Incarceration: Where it Starts, With Our Youth

Following up from last weeks show on Mass Incarceration, which focused on adults, this week the focus is on mass incarceration of our youth. In contrast to adult incarceration, where there has been bipartisan attention from U.S. Politicians, the youth problem is all but ignored during the campaigns. The issue is a big one so it is hard to understand why it is avoided like the plague by our politicians. In fact, I could not find a single quote on the internet about youth incarceration from politicians.

Perhaps people just do not want to hear about something so depressing. Newspaper and magazine publishers claim that they will lose their readership if they cover these issues. Television believes people will turn the channel or tune out. Maybe people will not read this blog either, but it’s an important subject, so I made the decision to do the right thing and cover the issue. If awareness can increase, the likelihood of positive change can increase too.

Here are some facts:

The U.S. has the worlds highest youth incarceration rate at 225 per 100,000 (as of 2015). The next highest rate amongst developed nations is South Africa at 69 per 100,000. The U.S. is 6 to 10 times that of the other developed nations.