The school-t0-prison pipeline is alive and well in America.
There are currently more than 60,000 individuals under the age of 21 locked behind bars in the United States.
On Sunday, April 12 at 10PM, Al Jazeera American will give us an exclusive look at the lives of incarcerated juveniles through the lens of Soledad O’Brien’s latest documentary, “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report.”
According to a press release, “Al Jazeera America was given extensive access inside a once-notorious juvenile lock-up, the J. Paul Taylor Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the state is now trying something new: offering education, counseling, and maybe even a second chance for juvenile offenders.”
“In “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report,” Al Jazeera America examines the human impact of CAMBIAR, modeled after a similar program in Missouri with one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. New Mexico’s Juvenile Justice Services director Sandra Stewart says, “Instead of just warehousing kids and watching them serve their time, the kids learn to do everything together in a unit and the staff [are] trained to be more along the lines of mentors, team leaders and coaches rather than correctional officers.”
Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group joined Roland Martin Friday on NewsOne Now via Skype to discuss the upcoming documentary that shines the light on the epidemic of incarceration in America.
We’ve often looked at juvenile justice and in fact the justice system as a whole in America in a way schizophrenically. We don’t really know what we want as the outcome. So in the past … they would put these kids in solitary confinement, there were allegations of horrific physical and sexual abuse taking place within this juvenile justice system.
What they have been thinking about is how should it be if the goal is to rehabilitate the kids then what do you need to do while they’re in to sort of change the trajectory — if the goal is to lower recidivism rates, what do you need to do and who are the kids that need to be in the system?
The current juvenile justice system is not set up to rehabilitate prisoners, if and when these individuals are released back into the public they have “no education, no ability to learn how to manage a lot of the traumatic experiences — bad experiences these kids have either perpetrated themselves or have been through.”
The juvenile detention program profiled in “Kids Behind Bars,” takes a different approach to handling issues with its inmates. If there is a fight, “They won’t put the kids in solitary confinement, which is what they used to do. They have to all sit down as a group and talk about what precipitated the fight, how did the fight go, who was responsible for, who is going to take the blame for the fight and discuss it as a group.
“It’s a really different kind of strategy than what they used to do in the past” before the CAMBIAR model was initiated in 2010 where solitary confinement was used as a punishment for fighting.
O’Brien also details a number of the other ways the J. Paul Taylor Center is “trying to see if they can change how the juvenile detention is set up.” Inmates in the facility attend a full day of school, can participate in GED programs, attend counseling sessions and guards are trained as mentors.
Watch Roland Martin, Soledad O’Brien and the NewsOne Now Straight Talk panel featuring, Attorney Midwin Charles, Ray Baker of Ray Baker Media and Joia Jefferson Nuri, CEO/Founder of In The Public Eye Communications discuss the upcoming “Kids Behind Bars” documentary in the video clip above.
“Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report” premieres on Al Jazeera America, Sunday, April 12 at 10PM EST.
Be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, weekdays at 9 a.m. EST on TV One.
Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.