Laurie Spivey, MST-FIT Expert

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Locking Up Youth for Status Offenses Is Counterproductive

Posted by Laurie Spivey, MST-FIT Expert

Putting youth behind bars for status offenses doesn't make communities safer

I am 38 years old. I am a wife and mother of three kids. We live in the suburbs with our dog, a hamster and two fish. I take my kids to gymnastics class, and I wait in the car-pool line. My life is not unusual. It’s just that I have an extraordinary job. 

For 14 years now, I have worked with kids who are on probation and parole. When I say the words “probation” or “parole,” I get lots of interesting reactions. Many people don’t seem to know that kids go to prison in America. Their kids haven’t been incarcerated, and so, it’s the furthest thing from their minds. The facts of youth incarceration in America are heart wrenching. While most people imagine young people to be behind bars for violent offenses, this is not the reality. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, the real truth is that 95 percent of kids held in detention centers are not there as a result of violent behavior. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that a large percentage are detained and sometimes even placed long term for status offenses.

 status offenses are counterintuitive

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