Throughout history, children as young as seven years who were accused of wrongdoing have been imprisoned with adults. In the early 19th century, the idea of reforming youth offenders took root in the United States.
“Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children.” The investigative documentary, produced by Fusion in partnership with The Root and Univision, details the negative impact of locking up more than 60,000 American juveniles, a number higher than any other country in the world.
“This is a heartbreak for the entire country and we can do better,” said Van Jones, president and co-founder of #Cut50, an organizaion formed to cut the incarcerated population by 50 percent in the next 10 years.
Zion, a 7-year-old Florida boy suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has accumulated more than 40 disciplinary write-ups. He received the first 25 in the first grade, including a battery altercation with a teacher, according to his mother. “I worry a lot that he will end up in jail,” she said. Florida is one of 33 states where children can be charged as adults.
“We’ve got to make sure our juvenile justice system remembers that kids are different,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. More than 109,000 children were locked up in 2000. Those kids are usually black and brown and struggle with mental illness. “Certain population of kids do not belong in juvenile facilities,” Jennifer Bellamy, legislative counsel at American Civil Liberties Union, said.