Around four months ago, Benjamin Knuckles’ 16-year-old son tried to escape from the Dermott Juvenile Treatment Center. As punishment, he was driven up the road to the Dermott Juvenile Correctional Facility, a nearby facility for 18-21-year-olds, and placed alone in a single-cell unit. He remained confined there for more than 24 hours.
In April, a 15-year-old boy housed at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center spent the entire day alone in a small cell. Michael (the names of juveniles in this story have been changed to protect their anonymity) was put in a hold by a guard and taken out of his classroom at the facility’s school. As he repeatedly said, “I am not resisting” and “no aggression” — a phrase used at AJATC to indicate compliance — Michael was brought across campus to Building 19.
I couldn’t hide my disappointment. There she was on the program, Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, the keynote speaker. What better person to address the several thousand attending the American Correctional Association conference in Denver last month? Are they kidding, I thought. What could she possibly share with correctional professionals that could increase our understanding on the important issues facing adult and juvenile corrections?
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is commencing a new juvenile justice initiative aimed at reducing juvenile incarceration by 50 percent in 10 years, beginning with the release of a report that makes the case for such a drastic reduction.
“An avalanche of research has emerged over the past three decades about what works and doesn’t work in combating juvenile crime,” stated the report “No Place for Kids,” written by freelance reporter Richard Mendel for the Baltimore-based foundation. “We now have overwhelming evidence showing that wholesale incarceration of juvenile offenders is a counterproductive public policy.”
Bart Lubow, Casey’s director of programs for high-risk youth, said the foundation will begin work next year with a series of states where officials want to make policy shifts that will affect their reliance on youth correctional facilities.
“The report marks the launch of an extended period of work intended to limit youth incarceration and replace it with a dispositional system that will work better and produce better results,” Lubow said in an interview with Youth Today.