Black kids are most vulnerable to abuse by the government. Whether from the police, the courts, or state government, juvenile justice is in a time of crisis.
Last week was one of the most difficult for abolitionists and freedom fighters. We witnessed juveniles be killed by police on camera in front of their homes and in a bathroom inside of their schools. We witnessed the United States Supreme Court further dehumanize children by expanding the possibility of life without parole on juveniles.
It is inhumane to sentence children to prison for life without parole. In fact, many international human rights treaties forbid this sentence. Life without parole has been a crisis for children when politicians deemed Black juveniles as “Super predators”. Children in the United States are legally incapacitated yet people justify them being killed by the state or sentenced to life.
When it comes to children accused of doing something wrong, the leniency and grace required goes out the window. No matter WHAT a child is accused of, they still have rights as American citizens.
I argued with people on social media who said the shooting of 16 year old Ma’Khia Bryant (who was killed by Columbus police department) was a justified killing. She was a scared teenager who allegedly had an altercation outside of her house when she called the police. The police shot her 4 times in the chest and killed her. This was the 5th time that police department alone has killed a child.
Another police shooting of a juvenile occurred in Tennessee. 17 year old Anthony Thompson Jr. was in his high school when the mother of his girlfriend called the police to his school. Four police surrounded him in his school bathroom and shot and killed him.
The police lied about what occurred stating that Thompson shot them. It was found later that the shot was from a police gun and now all 4 officers are on administrative leave. The school has temporary custody over children and they allowed officers to come in and kill a teenager without so much as notifying his parents. They also endangered the rest of their students by having these reckless officers in the school.
The mother who called the police disregarded all protocol and sent the police into the school for Thompson. If the young man allegedly grabbed her daughter and pulled her hair in school earlier that day, there is a school code of conduct to address that. He would have likely been suspended or gotten detention.
These occurrences happened at an instant. No charge, no judge, no jury. No representation, no due process, just death. I urge the community to see that this not ok and not justified. The violent school-to-prison pipeline and the adultification of our children is barbaric.
There are so many alternatives to killing or imprisoning our kids for life. Statistics show that pouring money into our youth, programs, education, and extra curricular activities is a sure way to prevent entering the system. As an attorney, there are so many ways to mediate issues. Instead of the state doing this, they continue to invest in more police, more jails, and more prisons.
These cases showed me that a majority of our society is complacent with the way that things are. Children have a right to an attorney and have the right to speak to their parents. Police do not have the right to even speak to a child without a parent, let alone arrest or kill. This is NEVER justified. We must see the harm in the status quo if we want to see a change.
Keep in mind these things if your child unfortunately encounters a police officer.
If your child is arrested, you should do the following:
- Do NOT allow the police to talk to your child if you are not present.
Police may ask you if it is okay if they talk to your child without you being there. They may even suggest that your child will be more comfortable if you are not there when your child is talking to the police. In order to protect your child, you should NEVER agree to allow your child to be interviewed or questioned by the police if you are not there.
• Try to see your child immediately. If the police will not let you see your child, send them a letter of protest, and make a copy of the letter to give to your child’s lawyer.
• Remind your child NOT to talk to the police without a lawyer present. Your child should not tell the police ANYTHING unless your child’s attorney says it is ok, even if your child was not involved in any way.
• Find out as much information as possible about the charges as soon as possible and find out if there were any witnesses.
• Do not ask your child to confess to you. If your child confesses to you, the prosecutor can call you as a witness against your child. The only person that your child can safely tell the story to is his or her attorney.
• BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: Even though you may be very frustrated with your child, worried about his behavior, and hopeful that your child may get the help he needs in the juvenile justice system, be careful before you ask a judge to send your child to placement. Before you ask the court to send your child away, talk with people about the system and about the options. Often, children do not get the treatment services they need and deserve in placement.
For legal representation in Missouri www.scruggsfirm.com
To join the fight against this legal crisis, visit my nonprofit www.justussystem.org and donate or learn about our programs.