“Childhood On Trial”
By Ashley “Chula” Jenelle
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglass
One mistake – and labeled for life.
The cries from a cold cell are just echoes of pain from a child’s heart. The urge to be understood and loved unconditionally are just simple requirements these children request. These children starve for attention but constantly feel hopeless behind barbed wires. Feelings of abandonment are quickly vanished when society rejects a child and stamps a label that reads “useless, stupid, monster, or crazy”. A child’s brain is still at that stage where they soak up information like a sponge. In result, that child will not only live up to that label, but they will accept it. When these children act out but truly want help, they’re punished and sent to a cell. If a child has been neglected, the first option should not be a cell.
I’m amazed on how these “get tough” politicians feel the need to increase juvenile detention centres, when in reality juvenile crime is on the decrease. Yet, what explains the mass incarceration for the most deeply troubled and misunderstood children? Can so-called “get tough” policies hold these kids responsible for their actions or just use punishment as a general deterrence. Being punished is different from taking responsibility. A child who is incarcerated will be punished by the system of course, but that same child will also become a better “criminal”. Prison is just a school for crime, a school flooded with criminals. Regardless of age, it is clear to see that the Criminal Justice System does not discriminate.
Sadly, as a nation we are given up on children. If the system chooses to fail as a whole – WE as a community need to step up and fill in the rough patches in these young children’s lives. Many of the children incarcerated are raised with little or have a lack of parental guidance, have a learning disability, which they receive zero support from schools or most just suffer from mental health issues which can lead to heavy substance abuse. If only these broken children could receive the individual attention they need or guidance. Just that one person who will actually listen to them can be the beginning of a success story. Unfortunately, these kids are slowly going astray and laws which were created to protect their privacy are feeding the public little info to these children’s harsh realities. For every kid who rises above the struggle, there are dozens who feel cornered and cannot escape.
We forget that although children do try an act like adults, they still think like children. They haven’t yet developed that frontal lube, which is part of the brain that performs several functions. These children haven’t mastered emotional control, sufficient reasoning, and learning, so why take them out of a civilized society where they can grow, to only dump them in a place where their surrounded by more troubled youth.
Back in the day, a lot of behaviour that we ourselves used to do such as play fighting, being curious to how things work, going places we weren’t allowed, has now been criminalized and used against a child’s innocence. At what part do we step in and really focus on the root of a child’s behaviour. Kids aren’t to blame for their impoverishment neighbourhood, or for white-collar criminals who embrace greed, or for Uncle Tyrone who carries a gun for protection every day. How do you expect kids to succeed if you don’t offer guidance, or protection, or even the basic necessities for survival ?
Children are seeds of hope. They should be rooted and develop growth in a positive and loving upbringing. Therefore, in order to assist a child, it begins with the foundation (family). If the family is struggling, the child will struggle twice as much and carry emotions of anger and despair. But despite their despair and anger, you have a gifted and lovable child only waiting for a second chance to break the cycle.