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.
I finally sat down to read a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion on an important issue: are all prisoners serving mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles entitled to new sentences based on an earlier ruling that such sentences constitute unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment?
Some juvenile detention centers may double as holding places for abused children, but they remain juvenile detention centers nonetheless. I am all too familiar with this phenomenon because, like the Tsimhoni children, my sister and I were incarcerated in a juvenile detention center for refusing to see our father at the age of 14.
The president and congress should not leave out youth behind bars in efforts to reform criminal justice this year and their actions must focus on reforms at both the federal and state level. Kalief Browder and Andre Sheffield's deaths are a sobering reminder to the president and the congress of the urgency and the need to ensure youth behind bars are not left behind.
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.