Jail is no place for kids who make mistakes. So argues Mistakes Kids Make, a new MacArthur Foundation-funded storytelling project, which unveiled a video and new website Thursday as part of an awareness-raising campaign to build momentum to reform the juvenile justice system.
The project engages viewers directly, asking readers: Have you ever gotten high? Shoplifted? Vandalized property or gotten into a fight? They’re not uncommon activities. The problem is that in recent decades, and especially for kids of color in poor communities, these transgressions can become arrestable offenses with lifelong consequences. The well-produced video makes no mention of the racial inequity which is so rampant throughout the juvenile justice system, but it does make a compelling argument for why a juvenile justice system with harsh automatic punishments which treats kids in a one-size-fits-all manner does little good for society. They’re not alone in arguing that youth would be better served with alternatives like counseling, social services, job opportunities and education.
The fact is that juvenile incarceration can very quickly close off children’s futures. It is the most salient predictor of eventual adult incarceration, in fact. And, as the video argues, “66 percent of kids who have been incarcerated never return to school.”
Find out more at MistakesKidsMake.org and learn about how you can speak up on this issue.