Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GIVING UP ON INNER CITY JUVENILES


I remember the day myself and my colleague Christine Bell got into a huge debate and nearly a fight with two suburban police officers in a juvenile justice class. The two police officers actually believed to a large extent that if juveniles want to commit crime they’re going to do it regardless. Christine and I coming from an “Inner City” background actually begged to differ. We felt as though for the most part juveniles engage in criminal activity due to their environmental influences, whether it is the home or the community. This took place the day after we had visited Hudson County Youth Detention Facility. Sadly, the population was mostly young black males, with no spare of hope in their eyes. Many of them felt as though it was honorary to be there, while a smaller percentage was genuinely afraid and eager to start anew.

I can remember that day in class very clearly. As always Dr. Williams boosted up the debates by asking a simple question, “What did you guys think about the visit? Do you think the process we currently have is helpful?” Of course me being the ultra liberal I am, I had a million bullets to through at the system. HOWEVER, I toned it down and simply asked, “I wonder why they didn’t ask any of the social workers to remain, I would have loved to question them.” The class looked at me as though they were waiting for me to finish my commentary, therefore I continued, “ I mean—if recidivism rates are high amongst the juveniles then we need to know what progs are working and progs aren’t working.” Out of the two cops there was a woman, White and in her mid thirties I suppose. Immediately this woman attacked me and said, “They’re only in there for two weeks how do you suppose they fix these children. If their parents are screwed up then they too will grow up to be screwed, sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do.”

I paused out of disbelief but whether she admits this or not and SHE NEVER DID, she basically just supposed that we give up on juveniles, allow them to become repeat offenders and then graduate into the adult system and become permanent slaves to the industrialized prison complex. Now remember when I walked into that detention facility there were mostly black young males. I have also walked into adult prisons and it is the same exact way. My point here is simple; those who are making the policies regarding the criminal justice system have NO CLUE to the lifestyles and the environments of those whom they claim to be serving, and when they make their racist policy they have TOTAL DISREAGARD to that. Good social behavior to them is based off of their good living lifestyle and their interpretation of what dominant culture and social control should be. This is precisely why we have a disproportionate amount of YOUNG JUVENILE BLACK MALES in the system, because this screwed up system wishes NOT to rectify the problem as it should be.

The reason why I wanted to speak to a Social Worker in that place is because I wanted to know the progs that they’re instituting to help those young children. According to the lady cop they were only in there for two weeks so how could they help? My response to her was, if they weren’t trying to help them in any such form or fashion then social workers would not be present in the building. THEREORE there must be some type of platform upon which the social workers are implementing from even if for two weeks, and therefore if these children are returning, we must begin to investigate the effectiveness of the programs that are being used. This is simple research shit. But even still she just couldn’t seem to understand my viewpoint.

Then my colleague Christine jumped in after listening to this lady’s nonsense and stated that perhaps we should have a gateway program. Whereby the children and their parents can go to classes and counseling to better their life styles and become more productive in our “civilized” society. Which I agree with, because if the children are returning and nothing seems to be getting done then we must implement new progs and possible policies that are going to do the job. Then Dr Williams boosted the debate up some more by saying, “Do you guys think Judges and Prosecutors in juvenile cases have too much power?” Immediately Christine and I agreed by saying YES THEY DO!!

Well guess what?! The Lady Cop came out of pocket again, this time with a partner the other White Male, cop who believed that the judges and prosecutors were doing just fine. The Lady cop said ok how can we fix this then if the judges have too much power are you supposing kid juries? I said of course I am not supposing kid juries!! Here was my response: To have an independent board of criminal justice professionals that are already employed by the state, whether they’re a parole/police/probation/correction officer, a court clerk, public defender, or prosecutor to serve as a jury. You will not have to worry about budgetary matters because the time serving on the independent board would be the equivalent to going to work. A new contract would be generated expressing this new obligation and there would be no changes to wages or anything. The job of this board would be to hear the facts of each case thus giving juveniles some form of due process. Remember there have been many cases of judges being tried for corruption in juvenile courts by wrongfully sentencing juveniles to facilities that in return give them a payoff. With respect to prosecutors, sadly, even in the juvenile sector there is a culture of lock em up lock em up! Being that the due process clause doesn’t apply to juveniles it makes it easier for them to be mistreated the most.

The lady cop went berserk, “Oh it doesn’t matter because if those board members are working for the state they’re going to serve the interest of the state!” My response, “If that were the case we could say the same thing about judges, aren’t judges supposed to be independent, what is the difference with this independent jury board?” SHE HAD NOTHING TO SAY!! The point being made here is simple folks, There are a lot of people out there in America that simply do not care about inner city youth, and they see them as students of adult career criminals, which is quite sad.. What made me write this article was the acts that had just taken place up in Chicago with the boy being beaten to death in the street. This phenomenon of violence is pathetic. But the overall narrative is what are we doing as a “civilized” society to combat this issue. Why haven’t we generated programs that are going to actually work? Where are the social workers, why aren’t they speaking up about what works and what doesn’t? Like I told the lady cop we have already established the fact that the parents have no control so what is the solution! The cop didn’t have any, but do we accept that as a legitimate reason to not continue the search?

If the majority of juveniles in detention facilities are black inner city youth, and we have actual people IN THE SYSTEM who believe they’re inherently criminal and nothing more than problem children, then in my opinion that brings forth a GREAT THREAT to Inner City Youth, which has already started to show itself via statistics. I don’t know about you readers, but it seems that the same disparate treatment that Black adults face within the Criminal Justice System is now spreading over to Black Youth in the juvenile system. How moral of America right? As a so called “civilized” nation, what are we to do about this?

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