| of our
kids, and we feel they ought to be locked up, that kids
do horrible things that adults wouldn't even think about
This perception exists
despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. The
National Crime Victimization Survey found in 1998 that
youth crime overall was at its lowest rate in the
survey's 25-year history.
Yet, lawmakers continue
to crank out get-tough laws to fight an illusory
juvenile crime epidemic. Politicians balk at
community-based alternatives even though such programs
show far greater success rates than jail at a fraction
of the cost.
A debate over bail would
not even be necessary if the juvenile court system had
fulfilled its original goal of rehabilitating young
offenders. The commitment to help kids who have made a
mistake has been replaced with a determination to punish
them, especially if they're poor kids who can't afford a
private attorney to get them off.
The housing of runaways, truants and petty thieves with
more serious and violent offenders has proven a terrible
policy. In 1999, there were more than 4,600 reports of
inmate-on-inmate assaults in Georgia juvenile detention
Our investment in
juvenile jails has wasted tax dollars and ruined
children’s lives. Three-quarters of detention center
graduates become repeat offenders.
"We just don't have
a system that is designed to keep kids out of
jail," says Costley. "Our system is designed
to get them into jail."