This article first appeared here in 2011. It was true then, it is even more true today.
I received a call from a reporter at the Star Tribune to talk about mental health issues of abused and neglected children I had worked with as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem.
I forgot to tell him that well over 50% of the youth in juvenile justice suffer from diagnosable mental health issues, and fully half of those children suffer from multiple, chronic, serious problems.
The amount of psychotropic medications provided to very young children and juveniles is not in dispute, and the results are impacting our schools, public health and public safety.
My experience with children receiving adequate therapy for the severe trauma and resulting behavior problems that were so indelibly a part of these very young children’s lives was almost non existent.
From the study; “In other words, by one mechanism or another, more than 200,000 individuals under the age of 18 are prosecuted in criminal court each year. There are three trends in the data worth noting.
First, the proportion of juveniles prosecuted as adults is growing, primarily because states are adding more and more offenses to the list of crimes that are excluded from the juvenile court.
Second, a very large number of these cases — about one-third — are for non-violent offenses, such as burglary or drug charges. Finally, Black and Hispanic offenders are more likely than White offenders to be
transferred, even when they have committed the same crime.
The greatest disparity is in the processing of drug charges.
Finally, Black and Hispanic offenders are more likely than White offenders to be transferred, even when they have committed the same crime. The greatest disparity is in the processing of drug charges.”
We are very familiar with the results of juveniles incarcerated as adults.
Many years of being in and out of jail & prison, high cost of crime & families impacted by crime. There is no upside in creating lifelong offenders which is exactly what we do by charging eleven and twelve year olds as adults.
“Children that are the victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem of the State Of Minnesota” MN Past Governor Tim Pawlenty.
No one wins when we abandon five year olds to be brutalized by abusive families and the losses grow as we incarcerate more and more juveniles. Punishing abandoned children as adults is its own crime.
As Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz so aptly stated, “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”
Vote for mental health services and child friendly programs for at risk children and call your state legislators and tell them to do the same. All adults are the protectors of all children.
Recommend the exhibit to your college/university/museum – start the conversation where you live.