Why Juveniles Should Not Be Imprisoned with Adults

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Playwright Victor Hugo once said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” This quote is particularly appropriate when considering the subject of sending juvenile criminals to prison for the crimes they commit as children. The United States of America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is by far the country in the world that imprisons the largest number of its citizens. It is also the country that imprisons the largest number of its youth. If America is ever going to realize its potential, we need to cherish our most valuable resource, our youth, and stop locking them away in jail and start preparing them for the future. One of the worst aspects of spending time in prison is that no matter how long you are required to stay, for many people it is a life sentence. By this I mean that even once prisoners are released, they are often unable to lead any kind of normal life. They are denied the right to work, the right to vote, and often the right to own their own homes. For adults this is often a tragedy and it starts a cycle where people see the only viable option is to return to crime. With juveniles, this is even more of a travesty because they enter this cycle at an earlier age. Rather than locking kids away and “throwing away the key,” we need to find ways to keep juvenile offenders in society with us and to guide them on the right path toward education, toward work, and toward stability. It will be much better for the young people and their families and much better for all of us if we’re looking for ways to help youth to lock up jobs and careers than locking them up behind bars. While it seems like this is the best thing for juveniles and their families, it’s also the best thing for the rest of us as well. It’s expensive to house and feed and clothe inmates in prison. It would be much better for all of us, in every aspect of society,
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