Social scientist Robert Martinson famously concluded in 1974 that “nothing works” to change the behavior of people encountering the justice system. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then. Policymakers and system stakeholders now have an ever-growing set of policies, practices and programs that help youth in trouble with the law change their behavior and make communities safer. And far-sighted policymakers have invested heavily in evidence-based practices in a number of states. Examples include Connecticut and Nebraska (where advocates like the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance and Voices for Children in Nebraska, along with their allies, played a role in the adoption of evidence-based practices).
Every isolation cell in every juvenile detention center in the United States could be redesigned with calm muted paint colors, cushioned mattresses with soft sheets and blankets, and luxurious, private bathrooms but it wouldn’t matter. Their purpose would remain to isolate the youth from contact with others.
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The mood outside the Clarence Brown Conference Center really cannot be considered anything other than festive. Throngs of friends and neighbors clump together, some of them still wearing their Sunday best, laughing and chit-chatting in the parking lot. Entire families — mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — trickle in and out of the building. Some of the kids skip their way merrily towards the front entrance.
“Urban Deconstruction,” an exhibit sponsored by Wells Fargo’s ArtsVibe Teen Program and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE), paints a dual portrait of Atlanta as both a modern marvel and a city in decay. The photographs on display at the Alliance Theater are a vision of the Southeastern metropolis as both towering buildings and dilapidated structures, a place where spiraling skyscrapers stand side-by-side with crumbling schoolhouses and abandoned, graffiti-covered interiors. The artwork, much like the city itself, is a demonstration of sharp contrasts and contradictions. The artists behind the exhibit, however, aren’t your average photojournalists. Devin Black, 18, of Sandy Springs, Ga.
An imperfect film reminds Americans of chilling crime and those wrongfully convicted
It’s often said that the more you know about something, the less you are apt to like a film about it. So let me state up front that I was living in New York City (in a single room occupancy hotel not far from Central Park, in fact — I went running in the park almost every day), in 1989, so I remember the Central Park jogger case quite well. In fact, if you lived in the city at the time, it was almost impossible not to hear about the case, including the controversy over the treatment of the young men arrested and later convicted of this crime. The case also received nationwide coverage, as did the fact that someone else later confessed to the crime, and that the Five’s convictions were overturned in 2002. Apparently most Americans don’t know much about this case, however, and they may be better served than I was by The Central Park Five, a new documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon.
We’re living in a Golden Age for documentary film — thanks to digital technology, it’s easier than ever to make a documentary, and thanks to the Internet and DVDs, it’s easier than ever to watch one. This is both good and bad — good in that you don’t need a lot of resources to create a documentary, and the cost of watching one can be free, or at least far less than what you would pay for a ticket to a movie theatre. The problem is that a lot of half-baked documentaries are getting made and distributed, and it can be hard for a potential audience member to figure out which documentaries are worth his or her time. Cevin Soling’s 2009 documentary, The War on Kids, is typical of a lot of the digital documentaries being produced today. It’s neither great nor terrible, but it’s an OK watch if you have an interest in the subject matter and a tolerance for directors who hammer their point of view at you for 95 minutes, without providing a lot of context or research support and no alternative voices at all.
In January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to the dangers of the military-industrial complex, a network of political and economic relationships among politicians, the military, and the defense industry that threatened to become self-perpetuating and independent of criticism or effective oversight by anyone outside this iron triangle. The subject of Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In is a similarly self-perpetuating entity, the prison-industrial complex, as fueled by America’s so-called “War on Drugs.” The facts are shocking to anyone outside this triangle of politicians, correctional institutions, and private contractors:
The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Today, more people in the United States are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses than were incarcerated for all crimes in 1970. One in eight state employees today works for a corrections agency. About 14 percent of drug users in the United States are African American, but 56 percent of those incarcerated for drug crimes are African American.
Juvenile-in-Justice, an exhibition of 50 large-scale color prints by award-winning photographer Richard Ross, will open at the Sturgis Library Art Gallery at Kennesaw State University, in Kennesaw, Ga., on Oct. 9, 2012. Ross’s photographs, based on five years of work interviewing and photographing young people involved in the juvenile justice system, document the realities of life in juvenile justice facilities across the country. The young people featured in these photographs have different levels of involvement in the criminal justice
system—some have been tried and convicted, while others are being held in detention while waiting for the gears of the system to turn. A variety of settings are also featured, from segregation cells to recreation areas.
The sight of decrepit, abandoned buildings can evoke many different reactions. They can inspire or disgust, educate or anger, thrill or frighten. Abandoned buildings serve as a reminder of our history—as well as our disappointments—and the art created of them can paint a vivid picture of urban decay. Being the oddball out of capital cities, Atlanta was not built on a major body of water. Instead, it grew as a central railroad hub of ill repute. It was a city of prostitution, gambling, and violence for a long time.