Ten years ago, in Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death sentences for crimes committed prior to age 18 were unconstitutional. This landmark decision was obviously significant for putting an end to an inhumane practice long rejected by virtually every other country.
In 2006, the mother of a teenage daughter involved in the juvenile justice system in Hawaii contacted a small, non-profit in Lake Charles, La., more than 4,000 miles away. The mother was seeking support from someone who could understand her plight in navigating the juvenile justice system and possibly help her find the treatment and services her daughter desperately needed. Her search, to find someone who had experienced the same challenges, took months of calls, letters, emails and Internet searches. Her efforts and lack of response left her hopeless. Fast-forward seven years.
In 2001, my 13-year-old son, Corey, was sent to what the New York Times called “the worst juvenile prison in the country.”
What crime had he committed that earned him this hellish journey to the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth in Louisiana? He stole a $300 stereo out of pick up after he smashed out the window with a crowbar. His sentence was five years in one of the most brutal facilities in the United States. The families of children who are system involved are often thought of as lazy, uneducated, uncaring or worse. But a new report by Justice for Families (J4F) gives us a much different picture of families and relies on substantial data rather than outdated myths and stereotypes.