Injustice of the United States Prison System

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Injustice of the United States Prison System

Isabella Terzoli, Staff Writer

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5,000 youth are actually in adult facilities. On any day, nearly 53,000 youth are held in facilities away from their home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement. Most of the time, one in ten is held in an adult jail or prison. In the United States in 2015, 47,000 youths were incarcerated and 69% were youths of color. Of that same percent 47,000 (73%) were in for nonviolent offenses. About 1,000 were held in adult prisons.

Even for the youth held in juvenile “residential placement,” the situation is bad. Thousands of youths are held before they’ve been found delinquent, many are for non-violent, and low-level offenses (even for behaviors that aren’t criminal violations).

A jail (by definition) is containment areas for suspected offenders who are awaiting trial or sentencing. These people are not necessarily guilty of any crime, these people are eventually found not guilty of any crimes and are ordered release by the courts.

A prison (by definition) are established for convicted felons. These are made for punishment and reform. There are different classifications for prisons (high, medium, low, and minimum) this would correspond to the seriousness of a convicted offender’s’ crime.

Then there is solitary confinement. This is a cell that puts the prisoner into a cell all by themselves and completely cuts off communication with all people. Most people put into solitary confinement go crazy and try to commit suicide, get starved, and sometimes even denied access to the showers.

The racial disparity between incarcerated black youths compared with white youths  rose by 22%, with all but 13 states seeing an increase. Nationwide, black youths were more than five times as likely to be detained or incarcerated as white youths. In six states, black youths were ten times as likely to be detained or incarcerated as white youths were.

8th grader Walker Anger feels that “Kids [youths] should be with kids and adults should be with adults.”

Brooklyn Nixon, an 8th grader says, “It doesn’t matter what the kid did or what the crime was kids should be put into a prison with kids and not adults.”

Some states automatically prosecute 17 year olds as adults. In some other states some offenses require adult prosecution, other states give permission to try youths as adults. 31 states say “once an adult, always and adult” (according to which means that if a person under 18 has been charged as an adult, in their future cases (if any) they will be handled as an adult. All states, however, have laws that allow (or require) youths to be prosecuted as adults, regardless of their age, for the more serious crimes.  

Every year, 626,000 people walk out of prison gates, but people go to jail 10.6 million times each year. Jail churn is particularly high because most people in jails have not been convicted.

Many people who are arrested are able to get out quickly because of bail. Those who can’t afford it though, are trapped. They either sit in jail until the court takes action, or work with a bail bond agent to secure their freedom. Only a small number (150,000 people on any given day) have been convicted, generally serving misdemeanors sentences under a year.

A 2016 report for the Sentencing Project explains that “black and white youth are roughly as likely to get into fights, carry weapons, steal property, use and sell illicit substances,” and skip school. This means, black and white kids can do the same crimes and behave the same ways, but black kids overwhelmingly are the ones being locked up.