According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the United States has more children incarcerated than any other developed nation. In the year 2012 alone, law enforcement agencies in the United States arrested more than 1.3 million persons who were under the age of eighteen. In recent years, children as young as ten years old have been arrested and charged with “crimes” that could be resolved with sound parental or adult discipline. The Campaign for Youth Justice reported that more than 70,000 juveniles are in some sort of detention facility on any given night in the United States. The incarceration of Juveniles cost tax payers more than six billion dollars a year.
Although some juveniles do commit violent crimes, two third of incarcerated youth are non-violent offenders. According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, the most common crimes committed by youth are destruction of property, drug possession, disorderly conduct and running away form home. Children who are in detention facilities are at risk of being sexually abused by other youth or staff members at the facility. These children are less likely to obtain a high school diploma, go to college or to gain suitable employment. In contrast, exposing children to the prison system places them at risk for being re-offenders as well as serving time in prison as an adult. According to the Washington Post (2014), juvenile detention systems seem to be creating criminals as opposed to stopping them. This is especially true for those juveniles who are charged as adults and placed in adult prisons.
Recently a high school teen was arrested and charged as an adult for beating a classmate while in school. The fight was recorded by a bystander and the video went viral on the internet. When the news first broke, many people felt as though the aggressor was rightfully arrested and some even expressed that he should serve hard time. Sadly, prison is suggested before counseling or therapy. Americans have become too comfortfable jailing our children.
Prison is a business that is causing the destruction of families. Too many children are suffering lifelong consequences for youthful mistakes. Unfortunately, children are charged as adults and sent to adult prisons for non-violet crimes all too often. Most of these children are isolated from family and friends during their incarceration which may have a devastating impact on the child and the family. There has to be other alternatives. Prison is not for children.