Christian Millennials Make Faith-Based Case for Closing Youth Prisons

Posted March 3, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog christianmillennialsmakefaithbasedcase 2017

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

For sev­er­al years, the Casey Foun­da­tion – along with research orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er pri­vate and pub­lic insti­tu­tions — have been mak­ing the case with data to replace adult-like youth pris­ons with more effec­tive, humane and devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate alter­na­tives. A new Casey-fund­ed report aimed at Chris­t­ian mil­len­ni­als, What Jus­tice Requires: Clos­ing Youth Pris­ons, sum­ma­rizes avail­able evi­dence and sug­gests steps for state and local action from a faith-based perspective.

More than ever, we need Chris­t­ian 20- and 30-some­things com­mit­ted to the Bib­li­cal call to do jus­tice, not just to learn about injus­tice,” writes Stephanie Sum­mers, CEO of the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Jus­tice (CPJ). We need a gen­er­a­tion of Chris­tians com­mit­ted to a vision of pub­lic jus­tice in their communities.”

Pro­duced by CPJ’s Shared Jus­tice ini­tia­tive — an online pub­li­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ty for young Chris­tians inter­est­ed in the inter­sec­tion of faith, pol­i­tics and jus­tice — the report exam­ines three key rea­sons youth pris­ons are unjust:

  • They are not restora­tive for offend­ers.” Favor­ing pun­ish­ment over reha­bil­i­ta­tion, youth pris­ons do not acknowl­edge the devel­op­men­tal needs of juve­nile offenders.
  • They reflect and per­pet­u­ate soci­etal inequal­i­ties.” Cit­ing juve­nile jus­tice sta­tis­tics on sys­temic racial dis­par­i­ties in con­fine­ment rates, the report doc­u­ments the bar­ri­ers to equal jus­tice faced by low-income families.
  • They fail to serve pub­lic inter­ests.” Youth pris­ons not only harm indi­vid­u­als but also fail to dis­cour­age crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. Rates of recidi­vism for incar­cer­at­ed youth are high­er than those placed in less expen­sive alternatives.

The report dis­cuss­es com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives to incar­cer­a­tion, such as the Mis­souri Mod­el and the char­ac­ter­is­tics that have made it suc­cess­ful. What Jus­tice Requires also describes pos­i­tive polit­i­cal action” that cit­i­zens can take to help reform the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems in their com­mu­ni­ties and states.

Acknowl­edg­ing the vital roles that non­prof­its and busi­ness­es can play in sup­port­ing youth­ful offend­ers, the report’s authors, Mor­gan Bar­ney and Andrew Whit­worth, empha­size the respon­si­bil­i­ty of church­es: The Church must do the work of walk­ing along­side youth offend­ers and their fam­i­lies. With a mes­sage of repen­tance, grace, for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the Church can pro­vide youth with com­mu­ni­ty and relationship.”

Read the Nation­al Insti­tute of Justice’s report on com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives to the youth prison model

Watch Patrick McCarthy’s TEDx Talk on youth pris­ons as fac­to­ries of failure

Read the Foundation’s report about sys­temic mal­treat­ment at juve­nile cor­rec­tions facilities

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