I am deeply troubled by yesterday’s article in the Texas Tribune about kids in juvenile justice facilities being assessed in order to transfer the so-called bad ones to adult facilities. Jay Kimbrough, interim Executive Director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), and Texas State Senator John Whitmire seem to think sending these children to adult facilities will prevent them from acting out violently and hold them “accountable.”
The reality is that these children will only learn more violent behaviors and will become the victims in a more violent and dangerous environment. I recently toured a high security Texas prison with one of my law school classes. It was far from a controlled, peaceful place. Guards told us about the prevalence of assaults both on other inmates and prison staff. According to a 2010 article in the Houston Chronicle, Texas prisons lead the nation in prison sexual abuse. Just Detention International found that “5 out of 10 prisons with the highest rate of sexual abuse in the country are in Texas.”
Sending these children to adult facilities is not for their benefit and does not benefit society. Shipping these kids to the adult system only communicates that we think you are un-saveable, and we refuse to try to help you anymore, essentially throw away kids. Personally, I do not believe in throw away kids.
Dr. Bruce Perry is an international authority in the area of child maltreatment and the impact of trauma and neglect on the developing brain. Dr. Perry believes that no child is unreachable, but instead needs the opportunity for repetitive therapeutic pattern activities to develop the appropriate coping and behavioral skills. In his article titled Keep the Cool in School, Promoting Non-Violent Behavior in Children, Dr. Perry states that “promoting a child’s emotional health is the most successful approach available to fighting violence.”
We are so quick to blame the kids when the systems designed to help them do not work. Maybe we should focus on why these systems are failing to rehabilitate these children?