Mass Incarceration. The New Jim Crow. The War on Drugs. Thanks to Professor Michelle Alexander these phrases are now intimately linked in the minds of social justice advocates and faith leaders as we begin a critical struggle for fairness, justice and human rights in the criminal courts, police precincts and prisons of America. The Next Movement is convinced that America can do better, and that the majority of Americans would want us to do better, if they knew the truth. The truth about systemic incarceration, structural second class status, completely uneven law enforcement practices, oppressive and selectively enforced laws that is filling the prisons of America.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ending Mass Incarceration: Children are a Critical Link

While there are many individual issues to be addressed along the way to dismantling the current criminal (in)justice system, one of the more heinous aspects is the way the system treats children.

The Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children is one organization that is working to protect the rights of children as they interact with the justice system. One of the programs they are actively involved in is a campaign to eliminate the Juvenile Life Without Parole sentence (JLWOP). In Illinois there are currently over 100 prisoners with this sentence, some sentenced when they were as young as 13, and many that were not directly involved in the crime (a lookout, or driver for example). An excellent document developed by the coalition, Categorically Less Culpable: Children Sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole in Illinois, provides great insight into the issue.

The JLWOP team has recently issued their latest newsletter (Click Here to view). In it you will find a broad array of information and first person accounts on the issues, as well as two stories in particular you are encouraged to read:

- Vulnerability of Youth in Police Interrogations.

- From the School-house to the Jail-house: Are Our Public Schools Shoving Black Boys Down the School-to- Prison Pipeline?

As we work to remedy the mass incarceration epidemic in America, we will continually be challenged to stop the early flow of our youth into the system, and both of these stories contribute to our understanding of critical issues.

For additional insights on the larger issue on the Cradle to Prison pipelining of our children, and excellent programs being instituted to help resolve the issue, please view the Children's Defense Fund website.