"They Call Us Monsters", Teens Facing Life Behind Bars

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

A thought-provoking documentary and discussion on the juvenile justice system

Within a few minutes into watching the documentary, “They Call Us Monsters,” screened at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management last month, I thought I knew how the film would turn out. It would be about redemption, because that’s the kind of movies, even documentaries, we like to see. But, I was wrong. 

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Topics: juvenile offenders

Should Troubled Teens Go to Wilderness Programs or Boot Camps?

Posted by Laurie Spivey, MST Services

If you're thinking of sending your teen to a wilderness program or boot camp, think twice

It's not uncommon for an overwhelmed parent to say, “I need to send him [or her] someplace else.” Whether a young person is running away, refusing to attend school, using drugs or is involved in crime, many parents come to believe military-style boot camps or wilderness programs are the only options left. Heavily marketed and popularized in the 1990s, some parents see boot camps as the way to send a clear message to their kids that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

But is a boot camp or wilderness program really the most effective way to handle a teen’s unacceptable behavior? There may be more effective alternatives.

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Topics: juvenile offenders

They Call Us Monsters

Posted by Joshua Leblang and Eric Trupin, Ph.D., University of Washington

A documentary film about teens behind bars

The documentary, 'They Call Us Monsters,' is a rare glimpse into the lives of the most vulnerable of those residing in America’s system of mass incarceration—juveniles facing a bleak life in prison. These adolescents would not have been deemed adults in virtually any other setting. They are unable to purchase cigarettes, rent a car or even vote. Yet, they are held to an arbitrarily created standard of adult convictions. It is clear from the film there is no easy answer for what to do with adolescents who commit serious offenses.

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Topics: juvenile offenders

Charging Juvenile Offenders as Adults, Part II

Posted by Lori Moore, MST Services

A response from an MST staffer and parent

As I read Laurie Spivey’s most recent blog post, "Charging Juvenile Offenders as Adults," I have to admit I struggled. I live in an area where a young person committed one of those horrific crimes on school property that put children I care for at risk. This young person’s behaviors put fear in the eyes of friends who grew up together and violated that sacred ground—their safe space. Community temperature ran high.

For me, as someone who is trained in Multisystemic Therapy (MST), who is trained in adolescent brain development and who in my head knows the best answer—the right answers—I struggled. For a moment, I had to really think. “If this were my child being directly victimized, what would I want?” This situation hit so close to home—our children were there—and now, this was a very real question for me and my family.


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Topics: juvenile offenders

Charging Juvenile Offenders as Adults

Posted by Laurie Spivey, MST Services

What price do we pay by charging youths as adults?

Sometimes young people do terrible things. Things that have lasting consequences. Things that require a swift response. Like two Wisconsin girls who were 12 when they were arrested on suspicion of stabbing a classmate 19 times. Though a decision about charging these young people as adults has yet to be made, in the state of Wisconsin, a child as young as 10 can be tried as an adult. Acts like these are terrible and heartbreaking and it leaves lawmakers, court personnel and the general public feeling like they have to take action. Is charging juvenile offenders as adults really the best answer?


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Topics: juvenile offenders

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