Passing Judgment: Juvenile Crime Indicts Adults
TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2010

In an op-ed piece in City Limits, "Passing Judgment: Juvenile Crime Indicts Adults," Tamara Steckler, Attorney-in-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice, writes about the good news is that juvenile justice reform is underway in New York. The bad news is that reform won't work unless we recognize the true causes of youth crime.

"If you look at New York State’s juvenile justice population, it is clear that we arrest, prosecute and jail adolescents of color almost exclusively," she writes. " As you might guess, the majority come from the poorest communities in New York City.

"Fortunately, Juvenile Justice reform is underway in New York City and State. For the first time in a very long time, almost everyone working in the system finally seems to agree that adolescents fare better with their families and robust community support than in detention or placement. It sounds simple and logical that children should not be systematically removed from their families; and that, as an alternative, teens and their families should be supported so they can remain intact."

Ms. Steckler concludes that: "Effective responses to juvenile crime must be responsive to children’s unique needs and development; teens need guidance, support and the love of a family, not barbed wire and restraints. Every child has greatness inside him or her, even ones who commit acts that are defined as crimes, and if we fail to give that child the opportunity and support to realize that greatness, we are at fault. Where is our collective accountability when a child age 13 ends up in prison?"

Read the full op-ed.