We must remember that the ultimate goal of the juvenile justice system is not to punish, but to rehabilitate. Today, armed with the latest data of what is proven to improve outcomes for our children, we can, and ought, to do better. It is what we owe to our children in Arkansas and to those all across the country.
As educators, we understand the benefits of letting young people learn from their mistakes. By incarcerating them as adults, we set them on a path that makes further education almost impossible, condemns them to a dismal future and costs society significantly more than evidence-based diversion practices.
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.
Why are so many girls, especially girls of color, confined in our nation's detention facilities, and what are we as a society going to do about it? We must all work tirelessly to give hope and a fair chance to these girls and all children by promoting policies, programs, and supports that help them and their families, especially those most at risk.