Consult With Our Children, Don't Jail Them

Friday, September 14, 2018

Dump our children into an already overcrowded prison system? Once we decide to jail our children instead of consult with them and help them get the mental help they need, 1 in 2 of them will be back in jail in the next three years.

 

Roy Exum’s idea of locking up each child who pulls a disgusting childish prank is a fantastic way to bankrupt our community on the front end and the back end.

Once a felon, they can say goodbye to good jobs that provide taxes and valuable resources to our community and say hello to the other side of the equation.

 

We pay about $76 a day or $20,000 more annually to take care of our inmates rather than taking care of our students. Relatively small investment in mental healthcare professionals for students at this inner-city school would not only save Hamilton County tax payers money. It would more importantly ensure we work towards developing the talents of this obviously caviler and struggling child. As Chattanooga seeks talented and qualified workers to man our growing economy, we should not turn our children into liabilities.   


I commend the HCDE and an alleged “inner-city” high school for recognizing their responsibility to educate our children instead of miring the lives of our youth in the judicial system. Put simply, our judicial system serves a critical purpose and helps to keep us safe when there are no other recourses, however, it does not reform offenders. A bit of compassion from our neighborhoods, churches, schools and citizens is the key to a strong and healthy Chattanooga.

 

Roy wants someone to, “insist this child never attend that classroom ever again” which will overburden our county budget and to condemn all of our tax-payers to finance the rest of this young man’s life! It is utterly foolish for us to throw away the lives of our children when they need unconditional love, guidance, and support.  More often than not, a struggling child simply needs to be asked why they did what they did and know that they have an ally who will help them make the improvements they desperately need.


The most appalling thing about Roy Exum’s opinion is that we should learn from the example of the “Mexican cartels” that are senselessly tearing apart so many communities instead of attempting to utilize the strategies and victories of restorative justice. The largest study our country has seen on this issue comes from the state of Texas, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. This institute studied 6.6 million records of seventh graders for three years and the data clearly shows a “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to Texas state Senator John Whitmire, chairman of the state of Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, suspending our students and sending them away is, “the easiest thing to do. It’s easier than working with kids.”

 

Restorative justice says we will not send our kids away, because let’s face it- there is no away. If we neglect to do the hard work of teaching and loving them while we have the chance, we will continue supporting them as prisoners. Let us instead invest in them while we can help them by adding more mental health professionals to our schools, providing more community-based mental healthcare, and implementing in-school policies with trauma informed models that build what is good in our students so that they can be part of what makes our community great.

 

Elizabeth Tallman


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