How We Can Work Together To Keep Our Nation’s Youth Out Of The Prison System

Lakin Starling interviews Mariame Kaba @ Fader. Excerpt below:

Young girls are increasingly being convicted for crimes that they’ve had to commit in self-defense, or in response to violence that they’ve experienced. It then trickles into the abuse-to-prison pipeline, but specifically with black and brown girls in comparison to white girls. How often is this happening now and why is that?

The issue about abuse-to-prison pipeline is important to relay to people. Overwhelmingly, most women in prison and girls in detention have histories with family violence before they actually end up in those places. In the case of girls, over 84% of girls in juvenile detention have a history of family violence prior to getting to detention. For women who are prisoners, it’s anywhere from 70-90%. If you look at different studies, many suggest that they were victims of domestic and/or sexual violence prior to ending up in prison. We don’t know though, what the numbers are of girls and women overall of any race, who are in jails and prisons for self-defense. We don’t have any, there’s no research out there in numbers to see that. But, we know just by the fact that you can extrapolate so many survivors of abuse to end up behind bars you have to assume that for many of them that is because of survival and self-defense.
Where do you think the void is in the system that allows for survivors of violence to be incarcerated? Especially black girls and women.

Since the people who are overwhelmingly personally targeted for criminalization are people of color, there’s more ending up in the abuse-to-prison pipeline and getting pushed into these systems. So for black girls and young women in particular, their being super impacted by forms of victimization and forms of violence. There’s personal violence, violence in their communities and our institutional forms of violence, like poverty and things like that. All that comes together to make them uniquely vulnerable. They find themselves in a situation where they might end up criminalized for both survival and self-defense. There’s also this history of black women being particularly targeted for the criminal punishment system that dates back to the convict lease system after slavery ended. Black women were overwhelmingly represented in the chain gangs that came after the convict lease system and then that became so inherently connected to criminality. It makes it much easier for you to end up criminalizing people when you have deemed inherently criminal. That’s been the case since and we see that happening quite often.

Read the full article.

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