In an effort to reducethe number of minority delinquents who come in contact with the juvenilejustice system, an extensive amount of research os being conducted in an arrayof approaches. Means of truly understanding if race is at the forefront ofthese decisions, and even studies on the upbringing of a child, and theirfamily involvement have played a part in research for some researchers. Somehave investigated specific cases and have questioned things such as society asa whole. Reviewing previous studies, and observing literature filled withstatistics from surveys and interviews are definitely deemed important inunderstanding this topic and furthering the effort to reduce minority contact,especially for young minority girls.Statics show that thenumber of minorities who have had any data collected on them at any pointwithin the juvenile justice system is significantly higher than those of themajority. The controversial topic of disproportionate minority contact in thejuvenile justice system became an interest of mine when the youth of mycommunity became affected by this. I took it upon myself to research differentcases in North Carolina and review legislation to determine what I could do tohelp.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the justice system wasnever constructed to help minorities, however, I feel that educating our youthwill help them progress.Black youth is 4.7 timesmore likely and Hispanic youth 3.4 times more likely than their whitecounterparts to be transferred to adult court.
(Council for Children’s Rights,2016) I’ve followed closely a particular North Carolina bill named the YouthAccountability Act (House Bill 1414). Without the passing of North CarolinaHouse Bill 1414 15-year olds who commit serious offenses will continue to startin the juvenile court and then transferred to the adult court, and 16- and17-year olds will continue to be automatically tried in the adult system,regardless. Our black youth who sometimes make honest mistakes will face alifetime of consequences that will not only affect their mental health buttheir well-being while being incarcerated. The Black Lives Matter Movement ishighly prevalent in the black community right now, and there are manyindividuals, including myself who fear what the future holds for their youngblack children, and for me personally, I am concerned with what this means for our black girls. Having the right resourcesand the proper education, is just small steps to fixing big problems, and Ihope that people begin to take this controversial topic more seriously.In an effort tounderstand this bill more in-depth I started with looking into the history ofthe juvenile justice system.
The Juvenile justice system was established aroundthe 1700s. During this time many children were being placed in facilities withindividuals that were sometimes twice their ages. It wasn’t until the ProgressiveEra that a group of activists by the name of the “Child Savers” pressed for ajuvenile system that would stress the importance of redemption and preventionover punishment. This separate juvenile justice system differedfrom the adult court in an abundant number of ways. One of the most imperativegoals of the juvenile justice system was to focus on the needs of the child andnot so much on the act that may have brought them before the court in thisfirst place. Public viewing of juvenilecourt proceedings was not allowed as it was a way to keep individual cases veryconfidential, in an effort to assure children were able to reenter society asnormal. Even the very language used in juvenile court differed.Words such as delinquencies and reformatory were used instead of crimes, andprison.
Unfortunately, certain procedural safeguards such as the right to anattorney, and the right to trial by jury, which was readily available toadults, was denied to juveniles, as it was deemed unnecessary.The first juvenile courtwas started in 1899, in Chicago. Soon after, in 1909, the city of Concord inNorth Carolina established the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and IndustrialSchool.
The first day of operation forthis facility was January 12th, and the first pupil that arrived came from thetown of Burlington. (Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School,1930) This facility only housed young white boys who had not reached theirsixteenth birthday. This particular facility made an effort to constantly mention that theydidn’t have the proper equipment for mentally and/or physically disabledindividuals and would not accept them.
It is not surprising tome at all that these establishments later started special sections for minoritychildren, and these children on average were one-and-a-half to two yearsyounger than their white counterpartsand endured longer sentences and harsher treatment. They also endured adisproportionately high death rate and, once discharged, were not granted thesame opportunities for advancement as their white counterparts.By the Roaring Twenties agentleman by the name of Thad Tate, voiced his unease with the great number ofblack boys being placed on chain gangs. Chain gangs were groups of convictsforced to labor at tasks such as road construction, ditch digging, or farmingwhile chained together. (Chain Gangs.
PBS, 2014) Tate believed that a trainingschool very similar to the Stonewall Jackson School should be established foryoung black boys.Cameron Morrison helpedbring Tate’s proposal to light in 1925, when he opened the Cameron MorrisonTraining School for Negroes, in Hoffman North Carolina. The school offered corecurriculum and job-related courses. By the end of 1925 the school’s populationhad grown quite a bit, going from thirty-seven to sixty-two and by 1956, thetotal enrollment had gone to 228.After researching thishistory I took a look further into cases of youth minorities being charged asadults, and although many were old, one particular case hit very close to home.The “Kissing Case” of 1958 happened right outside of Charlotte, North Carolinain a small town called Monroe. Segregation was extremely prevalent during thistime and this particular case caught international attention.
This happened inOctober when at the time, the city only had a population of about 12,000, withan estimated 7500 of this population being members of theKu Klux Klan, according to press reports. (Williams, 1957) The case involved two young African Americanboys, James Hanover Thompson (9), and David Simpson (7) and a young Caucasiangirl, Sissy Sutton (7). The children were playing a seemingly harmless game,which landed the young boys in jail.
The “Kissing Game,” as the neighborhoodchildren often called it, was a game where girls would sit on boys’ laps, andgive them a peck on the check. Sissy decided to be James’ partner during thegame, and later chatted with her sister about it when she returned home.Apparently, the girls’ mother overheard of Sissy playing a game with some blackboys and was enraged. The mother even went as far as to call up other parentsto organize a plan to kill the boys and lynch their mothers.
The day after the incident, James and Davidwere arrested for rape and placed in a jail cell. James recalled being beatenby officers and threatened and scared by Ku Klux Klan members. An entire sixdays passed, and the boys had no access to their mothers or legalattorneys. A gentleman by the name of Robert F Williamscaught wind of the controversial incident and decided he wanted to help put astop to what was happening.
He reached out to The National Association for theAdvancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its leaders for support and theyrefused to help in the case. They were said to have a long-standing policyagainst being directly involved in cases that involved sex. After not receiving thehelp he thought he would get from the NAACP, Williams then turned to thesupport of the European Press. A reporter for the London News-Chronicle wasactually allowed to see the boys and brought the boys’ mothers along when sheflew into Monroe to make her visit.
Thereporter, Joyce Egginton, managed to capture a picture of the boys huggingtheir mothers and the story along with the picture was released in Europe onDecember 15, 1958. News reports of the case began to spread like wildfire and even first lady EleanorRoosevelt asked Governor Luther Hodges to show leniency in the case.After spending threemonths in detention the governor acquitted James and David, and they werereleased. (Staff, NPR) This was only after the boys’ mothers refused to sign an”admission of guilt” waiver. Educating myself onlegislation, history, and certain cases have indeed opened my eyes to thesystematic injustice of minority youth.
It was extremely hard for me to findmuch research on minority girls in the juvenile justice system, and I quicklylearned it was because girls in North Carolina are less likely to be involvedwith the criminal justice systems than boys. I did, however, find that inrelation to their white counterparts minority females are more likely to beidentified as juvenile offenders. While researching I came across somestatistics that referred to the Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) youth community. More specifically, anational study found that non-heterosexual girls were about twice as likely tobe arrested and convicted as other girls who had engaged in similar behavior.Although there aren’t nearly as many minority girls in the juvenile justicesystem I still feel it is imperative that we learn what causes these youngladies to get involved with the system and what effects ithas on them.
Girls are the fastest growing number of juvenile crimes despitethe overall drop in juvenile crime. However, the biggest concern of the fate ofthese young girls is the extent of these crimes. Girls have been seen at an alarminglyhigh rate to as committers of violent offenses.In my opinion, girls arethe backbone of our society. Speaking as a black woman, I have seen anoverwhelming amount of love and support from women to other women butespecially to men. Although, our system has failed so many men and women.
Ithink women, especially young minority women, can be a source of help when itcomes to reducing the number of minority delinquents who come in contact withthe juvenile justice system. If minority young women are given interventionsbefore being exposed to the juvenile justice system this number willdecrease. I believe that minority women, especially black, are raiseddifferently in their homes so the approaches to helping them should bedifferent too. I am not at all saying that they deserve special treatment orshouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, but instead being realistic.
The youth of any color are still children, they learn from doing wrong thingsand then being exposed to the correct way. What exactly does a child learn frombeing thrown in a jail cell for the first time theysteal something? That more than likely mommy and daddy will bail them out andpay their bond. Sentences shouldn’t be harsher for certain offenses butcounseling should be a factor in helping our youth. Getting down to source ofthe trouble these children endure is how it should be fixed, not treating themlike adults.