In the second installment of an academic year-long series entitled “Kids or Criminals?”, in February, the Pre-Law Society & the Criminal Justice League brought two district judges and two defense attorneys together to discuss the current state of youth incarceration in our nation. What came out of the event were heart-felt and touching stories grounded with the realism that can only come from working within the problem for decades. Students and community members listened as the participants spoke of tragedy and systemic failings that continue to disenfranchise struggling youth to this day. One of the key points that was hit upon was how the term “juvenile” is only used when referring to animals or youth in the criminal justice system. In an effort to take action and shift the narrative, all of the participants moved away from that language for the remainder of the event. The decision had a noticeable effect on the audience; there was an element of power in seeing people in positions of community power like judges be willing to be an immediate part of the change.
“We don’t recognize the cry for help.” -Karl Williams, District Court Judge
“There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is just ‘us’…” -Lizanne Padula, District Court Judge
“Internal healing and change, and systemic reform are not mutually exclusive. That’s where we can all come together.” -Christopher Poulos, Defense Attorney
“Everyone has something to offer” -James Curtis, Defense Attorney
Keep an eye out for the culminating “Kids or Criminals” event due to take this quarter. The final event seeks to draw together adults who were incarcerated as children and the lawmakers who continue to construct and continue the system.