In America we lock up more children then anywhere in the world. Shockingly, over 54,000 inmates are under the age of 18 years old. The sad part is, we lock these children up for simply missing school, staying out past curfew, or running away from home. We as parents, educators, politicians, and every day citizens are letting the government fail the next generation. During my vast studies, I’ve come across the “school to prison pipeline” theory. At first I thought the idea was pretty preposterous, only to realize there actually is a direct connection. Parents drop the ball, the school system drops the ball, while the justice and pharmaceutical systems benefit (profit).
From placing kids on medications that are not necessary, to allowing our children to head down the paths that lead to early incarceration, the justice system is in need of a major reform. If a child is running way from home or missing class, don’t you think there might be a serious underlying problem that needs to be addressed? As a child who came from a really messed up family, skipping school and staying out late is only a small part of my story; luckily, I was able to avoid being another statistic. I can only imagine how a teenager must feel to be stuck in a torturous and inhuman cycle, being locked up for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement with no human contact, day in and day out. Instead of creating rehabilitation programs, we spend over 8 billions dollars a year locking up non-violent youth offenders. In my opinion, we’re creating more problems than solutions. Most people are not aware that these prisons are privately owned, meaning the government pays the owners/investors to house these “criminals”. How can you make a profit if your cells are empty?
In this documentary “Prison Kids: Juvenile Justice in America“, it’s noted that over one third of these incarcerated children are African American. The film also mentions that 70% of the inmates are labeled with some kind of “mental illness”, which supports the pharmaceutical companies. It was also made abundantly clear, that Caucasian children are offered other options including government funded support systems, instead of being placed in detention centers. Why are the same opportunities not afforded for children of color? Is this a part of the systemic oppression that has been dealt down for hundreds of years? Is this the only way we can deal with our African American youth, is to lock them up and feed them pharmaceutical medications?
One of my main connections to this film is the fact that it focuses on my home state along, as well as my home town. It’s mentioned that in Ohio there is more punishment and less help offered for juvenile offenders. Why is it that we are so hard on our children, especially in Ohio? Why is there such a lack of parenting and mis-education? Cleveland, Ohio has one of the worst school system in the nation, with a very high incarceration rate. At one point in the film we are introduced to young man named Allen who explains how he felt being locked up. First off, the young man had never taken any psychotropic drugs until being mandated to do so, by the courts; he also made the statement that the program made him worse, not better. If we took more time to listen and understand, we could find a better way to help these children. Take the time to review the documentary and see where you can help, even if it’s just with your own child! It’s time for a change.