Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids out of the Juvenile Justice System

Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids out of the Juvenile Justice System

Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids out of the Juvenile Justice System

Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids out of the Juvenile Justice System

Excerpt

Justice for kids, in the broad sense of meeting their needs, providing them with opportunities to grow, and supporting their families and communities, is rarely achieved by pushing them into the juvenile justice system. It is the contention of this book’s contributors that America’s juvenile justice system doesn’t work: it hurts kids instead of helps them. Accordingly, the best thing we can currently do is keep kids out of the system. Better still, we should reconceptualize the juvenile justice system around children’s needs. A system truly fashioned around the needs of kids has the potential to offer creative and lasting solutions to problems facing our youth.

This book focuses on preventing and reducing juvenile crime and fostering healthy child development grounded in evidence-based, effective interventions and systemic restructuring. The goal is not a Band-Aid fix or a rescue from a faulty system, but rather a complete system change. The scholars and experts featured in this book focus on what is wrong upstream, rather than how to rescue kids from a malfunctioning system that fails to bring justice to children and therefore does little to aid in their development toward healthy adults.

America’s juvenile justice system is especially harmful to children of color, just as the adult criminal justice system is disproportionately weighted toward racial minorities. Indeed, as Michelle Alexander demonstrates in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), the adult criminal justice system labels, segregates, and marginalizes black and brown people, especially men. Alexander ties racial patterns in the adult system to differential policing and prosecution of drug offenses by race. The juvenile system reflects a similar pattern in the high rate of arrests and system involvement for nonviolent offenses, particularly drug offenses (Children’s Defense Fund 2008).

Moreover, the racial composition of the juvenile justice system substantiates Alexander’s ideas about the purpose of the adult system, and there is much evidence that the juvenile justice system feeds into the adult system.

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