From: Sarah Ventura
You can say that jails and juvenile detention centers are a public necessity, maybe a necessary evil. You can say that jails and juvenile detention centers act as stabilizing places for a person in crisis. You can say that jails and juvenile detention centers are places where a person can have their needs examined and then be referred to somewhere else for help.
You can say this. You can deeply believe this. That does not make it true.
If you say and believe this, you are operating off of a basic assumption that there are no better alternatives than jails and juvenile detention centers. Or, you are assuming that better alternatives would be much more expensive and/or much harder to implement. Those basic assumptions are wrong.
I can confidently say that is wrong because there is decades of evidence that show:
- Jails and juvenile detention centers have poor outcomes and do more harm than good.
- Jails and juvenile detention centers are inherently traumatizing.
- Jails and juvenile detention centers do not address a person’s root problem.
- Past incarceration is the single greatest factor in predicting a person’s future criminal activity.
- Punishment does not inherently fix anything.
Yes, we can continue to confine adults and children. We can continue to put them in harsh environments where authority figures carry weapons and have the legal ability to use them. We can disrupt that adult’s job or that child’s education. We can threaten them. We can fine them. We can isolate them. We can expose them to more violence.
We can pour more money into that kind of “criminal justice” and we can claim that we’re “helping people.” That doesn’t make it true. All it does is make us part of the problem.