The Washington Post, reporting on the release of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT report, writes,
The nation’s juvenile justice system metes out harsher punishment to black and Latino youths, locks up thousands of children for relatively minor offenses and ultimately makes them more dangerous, according to a national study released yesterday….
The primary focus of this year’s report was the fate of the 400,000 youths who cycle through the juvenile justice system each year. During a two-hour news conference yesterday at the Cannon House Office Building, a panel of experts said the problem has largely been fueled by fear and racism that often lead police to take young white offenders home and minorities to jail.
In 2006, for example, three youths of color were in custody for every one white youth, the report said. Two thirds of all youths in custody were incarcerated for a nonviolent offense.
In the 1990s, 49 states made it easier to try youths as adults. On any given night, 100,000 minors are in jails, prisons, boot camps or residential facilities. A succession of speakers yesterday said these places often cause more problems than they solve. Grace Bauer of Lake Charles, La., said her son, who had been sent to a boot camp for being “ungovernable,” was raped when he was 13.
Bauer said her son, now 21, carries the scars. She later learned that the program had a 95 percent failure rate. “On my first visit to see him, he had welts on his face,” she said.
Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Virginia) said many “get tough” crime measures are “nonsense that does not reduce crime.”
“It helps [politicians] get elected,” he said. “If you can get it to rhyme, even better.”