August 10, 2009

"Holes" In Juvenile Corrections Systems?

Like many American schoolchildren, in my illustrious public-school educational career I read a few books. Surprising, I know. One of those books happened to be "Holes," by Louis Sachar. It details the story of a wrongfully accused youngster being forced to dig holes in the desert in an operation masquerading as a juvenile corrections center. I wouldn't mention it but for an article I noticed in the New York Times today that bore a shocking (slight, but shocking) resemblance to the fictional book; could it be true that our correctional facilities neglect to in fact correct our children and instead simply confine them?

The article (see the link below) details, in short, the complete wreckage of care that juveniles in correctional facilities (and especially mentally ill juveniles in the same situation) often receive, or rather don't receive, in this country. Juveniles who have committed crimes are in most cases- two thirds of cases, the New York Times says- influenced by some kind of psychological disorder. And yet they don't receive the care they need.

Obviously, jails and juvenile correctional facilities aren't the best places to be. But when the "prisoners" involved are children, and children with mental disorders, shouldn't these places at least be safe, and hopefully have some kind of positive or at least not entirely traumatizing effect on their inmates? I wasn't under the impression that the facilities shared many characteristics with the Sheraton, but I had hoped that at least children would not be bullied, ignored, and neglected within their walls.

Perhaps this is a result of the fact that there's just no money left for the facilities' budgets. Perhaps it's a result of the stigma still attached to any mention of mental health problems in this country. Perhaps it's the fact that no one really cares enough to write letters of complaint...

Regardless, give "Holes" a re-read and give this a thought: Our juvenile facilities aren't as bad as all that... are they?

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