Helping 'Prison Kids'

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Panelists (l-r) Dr. Brian Sellers, Rep. Jeff Irwin, Rodd Monts, and Leah Mills-Chapman.
 

The Dispute Resolution Center in Ann Arbor hosted the film “Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children,” on Oct. 20 at Washtenaw Community College, followed by a panel discussion moderated by DRC Executive Director Belinda Dulin and featuring Michigan ACLU Field Director Rodd Monts, EMU Criminology Professor Dr. Brian Sellers, Leah D. Mills-Chapman DSW, and Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin.

The audience of students, parents, educators and other members of the community learned about the disappointing state of affairs regarding the imprisonment of juveniles in the United States. The U.S. incarcerates children at a higher rate than any other developed country.

• On any given day, 54,000 youth are in prisons or other out-of-home confinement

• Three quarters are locked up for offenses that pose little or no threat to public safety

• Incarcerated youth face physical abuse, excessive use of force by facility staff, sexual abuse, and over-reliance on isolation and restraints

• Research shows that by placing youth in correctional settings they are likely to reoffend. Within three years of release, around 75 percent of youth are rearrested and 45 to 72 percent are convicted of a new offense

• Approximately two-thirds of young people do not return to school after release from secure custody

• African-American youth are 4.6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth

There are multiple reasons cited for America’s overreliance on harsh punishment for juveniles: zero tolerance policies; preponderance of police in school settings; lack of training for teachers and administrators encountering changing demographics. Several bills under consideration in the Michigan legislature are designed to reduce the reliance on imprisoning juveniles and focus on alternative methods such as restorative justice circles and other forms of mediation. For more information, visit www.thedisputeresolutioncenter.org. 

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