The Mass Incarceration of Young People is a Major Problem in the United States, continuously

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Photo: Circa 1960's Civil Rights Era

-by Christopher Adams, 12 – Eagle Academy for Young Men II

 

Rediscovering Lost Values …at the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Alabama

 Can you believe that children can get incarcerated at 7 years of age?

The Slave Patrol made sure that the slaves did not learn how to read or write. They also made sure that the slaves did not run away. Understanding the Slave Patrol and that being the real reason why we have the police helps us understand so many of the problems Black people have with the police like being stopped, arrested and even being killed.

In 1865, slavery was abolished. Soon after slavery “ended,” Jim Crow’s segregation laws took effect. These laws separated Black people and white people in many ways.

In my opinion, the Jim Crow laws which impacted the educational system and judicial system were most damaging.  The “desegregation” in the educational system was supposed to provide relief to Black students who were affected by the racism of that time, however, it was still hard for them to learn.

In fact, the school-to-prison pipeline is one of the present-day results of desegregation and it is the main pathway to the mass incarceration of juveniles.

Have you ever noticed when the Black children have their “off days” they get a severe punishment but when white children have their “off days” they get a warning?  They are told that things are not their fault and they are encouraged. Black students’ punishment can be as severe as suspensions or even expulsion. They miss so much school that they are not up-to-date with the work, which leaves them feeling bad about themselves.

The education system and the judicial system negatively label Black students which causes the school-to-prison pipeline.  So Black students are expected to fail.  They drop out of school, hang out in the streets and may get involved with the wrong crowd. It’s assumed that most Black youth are affiliated with a gang or doing something wrong, so they may be arrested for no real reason.

While I was at the LEGACY MUSEUM, I learned that Alabama sentences more Black children to life sentences than any other state in America.  Youngsters are treated like adults.

Black youth deserve the same opportunities as white youth have. I am thankful for a place like the Equal Justice Institute which supports young people and fights so hard for equal rights.

(Editor’s note: The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is situated on a site in Montgomery, Alabama where enslaved people were once warehoused during the height of the Domestic Slave Trade. It is steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where children and families were trafficked during the 19th century.   The 11,000-square-foot museum opened to the public on April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. It was founded by Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative as a counterpart to the National Memorial to Peace and Justice, which is dedicated specifically to the memory of the victims of lynching. The development and construction of the museum and the nearby memorial cost an estimated $20 million raised from private donations and charitable foundations. For more information, visit: eji.org. – Bianca Robinson, co-founder, Rediscovering Lost Values)