According to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, increasing amounts of incarceration during one’s youth can worsen one’s physical and mental health later in adulthood. With this evidence, the journal concluded that “Individuals with a history of incarceration may need increased support to overcome any long-term detrimental physical and mental health effects of incarceration” (Barnert et al. Pediatric vol. 139,2).
When children and teens are placed in correctional facilities, prisons, or detention centers, they run a high risk of recidivation. This means that those who are simply punished for their mistakes instead of learning from them are more susceptible to repeating those same offenses. Most of the time, juveniles commit crimes to try to cope with or fix a problem that they are living with. Many of these children and teens need a therapeutic outlet to grow and learn from their past so that they do not repeat it in the future. Restorative justice starts with reflection rather than punishment.
An excellent way to implement restorative justice practices is to start with community-based programs for juveniles. When juveniles are shown that the community cares about them, they are more encouraged and inspired to learn from their mistakes. Getting involved in community-led organizations that focus on restorative justice for the incarcerated or detained youth can genuinely make a difference in children and teens’ lives and help end the cycle of mass incarceration. One way to start a community-based program for juveniles in your area is to visit JUSTUSFORTHEM.ORG, a youth-led mentorship nonprofit organization serving justice-system-involved youth in the DMV area. Currently, Just Us has opened its applications for the fall 2021 semester, where college-age or college-enrolled students in the DMV area are eligible to apply. For those who would like to apply or are not in the DMV area, you can start your own Just Us chapter in your area by emailing the organization at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When children and teens make mistakes, punishments should not be imposed without restorative policies put in place to help them learn and heal from their past. One of the best ways to reduce future physical and mental health problems among juveniles is to get involved with community-based programs.
Teaching the youth to heal and learn through community outreaches can truly help end the cycle of mass incarceration.