For another American Studies class, I watched the documentary call Juvies. It discussed the rising number of children being tried as adults and how this not only affects their lives but also the system. Many of the kids in the video were 14-15 years only and being given sentences of 35 years to life. Many had had no priors and were not directly involved with the crime or the gang violence (ie driving the car).
This relates to the Occupy movement and the problems of redistribution of wealth in many ways. For one, when the kids are sent to adult prisons, their future ceases to be something we as a society invest in. We invest in their punishment. In Juvenile, there are rehabilitation services and a chance to be educated. In adult prisons, these programs rarely exist. So when these kids get out of prison (if they do) they are released without an education and with few options. Recidivism is much higher to those kids sent to adult prison then those sent to Juvie (many never come back). Also, the clause for "gang affiliation" clause, is adding more time in efforts to prevent the individual from committing potential crimes in the future. However, it is so wide, the system can unjustly sweep up friends and family, not in any gangs. This clause can more easily target individuals from lower income communities, for who minimal” gang affiliation” can come from just residing there and interacting with the people around them.
And finally, prison is expensive. And with the pressure to expand facilities, many other programs are being cut. Much of the funding that was for the education system is being sent to invest in prisons. Private corporations are making money off prisons, while a child in public school may not longer have access to an arts program.
The Stiglitz article about the one percent argues, “We are not using some of our most valuable assets – our people- in the most productive way possible”. Sending a kid to adult prison saps out their opportunity to be reformed and give back to the society that paid for the reform. They instead become a permanent criminal, picking up undesirable traits and drug habits they hadn’t had before adult prison.
Finally, in line with the Occupy movement, random people on the street were asked what these kids’ sentences should be considering the circumstances. The numbers that were generated this way were dramatically smaller than the actual sentences given. The government needs to do a better job listening to what the people want and giving them the resources to be properly informed.
Here is a link to the official documentary site to learn more.