Marie Williams: Moving Away from Punishing Kids Who Have Punishing Lives


We Need to Address Mental Behavioral Health in Kids Who Land in Justice System

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange | May 22, 2017

By Marie N. Williams

"The juvenile justice system as originally conceived was based on the idea that young people who came into conflict with the law should be given the opportunity for reflection and reform. The earliest places of juvenile confinement were intended to rehabilitate young people, and help them become productive members of society...

Over time, particularly in the 1990s, juvenile justice came to focus more on retribution and punishment. Kids were placed out of home for longer periods in increasingly restrictive settings, and catch phrases like: “Do an adult crime, serve adult time” became the norm among policymakers who wanted to be responsive to communities fearful of these new young so-called “superpredators.”

What the public discourse at that time — and hence public policy — failed to appreciate was the likelihood that young people in the juvenile justice system are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. Many of them, we came to learn, have had multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), or have experienced significant trauma."

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