Nobody of any age should be held in jail without a trial for three years. No child or adolescent should be held in an adult jail. Yet, a 16-year-old accused of stealing a backpack was kept in one of the most violent adult jails in the United States, Rikers Island in New York City, for three years without a trial. This was morally scandalous and inhumane. Even worse, he spent more than two years of that time in solitary confinement, locked up alone except to go to the shower, the recreation area, the visit room or the medical clinic. This was torture. The suicide of 22-year-old Kalief Browder on June 6, barely two years after his release and return home, was the final horror in his tragic and brutal journey into the depths of the adult criminal justice system in New York.
When President Obama recognized May 2015 as National Foster Care Month, his Proclamation honored "those who dedicate themselves to making a difference." As the month draws to a close, those of us working in the foster care trenches need to take a hard look at where we are still failing these children.
It's easy to forget that childhood poverty is a devastating reality in the United States. A few years ago, in a New Yorker article entitled "Spoiled Rotten," Elizabeth Kolbert wrote: "contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world." Evidence of that claim is all around us.