Why Juvenile Prisons and Jails are Unjust
Oct 12, 2020
We learned about George Stinney Jr. in the summer of 2019 when author Ta-Nehisi Coates was testifying before Congress in the summer of 2019. George Stinney was a 14 year old African-American teen who was convicted, in a proceeding later vacated as an unfair trial, of the murder of two girls, Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames, ages 7 and 11, in his hometown of Alcolu, South Carolina. Geroge Stinney Jr was executed by the electric chair June 16,1944, making him the youngest person ever to be executed by the electric chair in America. Reports are that George Stinney Jr was too short for the electric chair, and he was forced to sit on a bible during his execution. It took almost 70 years to vindicate George Stinney Jr of the crimes, at the persistent inquiries by his family who reportedly were with him that night of the murders.
George Stinney Jr and Grace, a 15-year-old Black girl who was recently incarcerated in Michigan after she failed to do her online school work during a global pandemic, presents the countless of underinvested youth who are incarcerated daily in facilities that are unjust and inequitable. According to the Sentencing Project in 2015, Black youth were more than five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth. It’s important to note that Ramsey County Minnesota closed Totem Town, in an effort to find solutions outside of youth incarceration. We think it also important to note that in 2015 in Minnesota, 648 black youth were detained in a juvenile facility, compared to 75 white youth. For those who pay more than $750 in taxes annually, it’s important to point out that the over-incarceration of young people costs the state of Minnesota $104,839 a year (or $287.23 a day) for each incarcerated young person, reports the Justice Policy Institute.
At 30,000 Feet we believe that no one community is inherently criminal, and we believe in human transformation. We believe that these are key values to a just and equitable society. As “Law and Order” becomes a key talking point among politicians across the country, we must ask ourselves,what does an equitable society look like? Dissenters may point out that we must protect society from the most heinous crimes, and what about Chicago gang violence, which are all legitimate questions.
In effort to find solutions we wanted to propose some alternatives to youth Incarceration:
- Invest more into mental health services for marginalized youth who come from under resourced communities.
- Build jobs hubs for teens in the most impoverished communities, jobs that focus on poverty alleviation.
- Build more high quality affordable housing for marginalized youth to live.
- Assign high school youth to a credit advisor, who can help youth build their credit.
- Replace juvenile district attorneys with community liaisons, probations officers with communityappointed mentors, judges with mental health professionals who report to community based committees.
CALCULATING THE FULL PRICE TAG FOR YOUTH INCARCERATION FOR YOUTH INCARCERATION J U S T I C E P O L I C Y I N S T I T U T E | D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 4
Youthprise “ Why We Invest In Youth” 2019. Web
Hockenberry, S., Wachter, A., & Sladky, A. (Sept. 2016). Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2014: Selected Findings (NCJ 250123). Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/250123.pdf
Bever, L. (2019, May 03). It took 10 minutes to convict 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. It took 70 years after his execution to exonerate him. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/12/18/the-rush-job-conviction-of-14-year-old-george-stinney-exonerated-70-years-after-execution/
Davis, Angela Yvonne. Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003