You may not be aware of it, but this month is the fourth annual National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Sponsored by the Campaign for Youth Justice October is a busy month across the U.S. Events and activities geared towards raising awareness and civic involvement with youth justice issues are occurring across the states of our Union. The main focus being the incarceration of minors in the American prison system.
The creation of a Missouri mother named Tracy McClard whose son committed suicide while incarcerated in an adult prison. He was 17 years old at the time. Now she is in charge of Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice and she has a lot to say on the subject of kids in prison. James Swift, who writes for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange quotes her as follows:
‘One reason why we started the National Youth Justice Awareness Month is because [the general public] doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a child in jail at all,’ McClard said. ‘If you don’t know what it’s like, it’s real easy to approve of policies that you don’t understand or know the statistics about.’
McClard believes that the overall lack of knowledge on this issue is not limited to the general public. Policy makers need to become informed as well, particularly those adopting a “though on crime,” stance. Here are more of her words on the subject as quoted in Mr. Swift’s column:
McClard encouraged those in favor of adult sentencing for minors to examine recent data and statistics. ‘Look at the studies, everything that’s out there,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t make society safer and it doesn’t make the public safer.’
‘It damages families, it damages youth, and there is nothing positive about it,’ McClard stated. ‘Everything about it is wrong.’
Campaign for Youth Justice Media Director Eric Solomon has stated that there are over a quarter million youths that are tried, sentence, and incarcerated as adults on an annual basis. He also supports McClards stance on educating policy makers, especially in light of new research such as the recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report which comes down squarely against juvenile incarceration.
These issues are in the spotlight this month, so far there are events across sixteen states, and plentiful information available for those who might wish to kick off an event of their own between now and the end of the month.
For the sake of our children, get involved.