We have a student right now who has been with us for 15 months.
For 15 months he has lived in absolute limbo. Not knowing if he will be locked up for 4 years or 40. Numbers and names being constantly thrown around by Judges, lawyers, and the likes.
I guess we’re getting a little lax on our understanding of the 6th Amendment, because there’s no way that two Christmases and a birthday in Detention is fair or speedy.
For 15 months this student has gotten consistent care, attention and support from State Staff and Teachers – the first adult role models he’s had. And yet, when he leaves, he will be completely cut off from all of us.
For 15 months he has been brought to court in shackles, just to be told his court date has gotten pushed back again.
For 15 months he has struggled to learn coping mechanisms to deal with the overwhelming amount of stress he has, because of just how uncertain his future is.
For 15 months he has been patient, and kind, and done his best to move up in status and earn privileges, despite minimal family support.
For 15 months. For almost 500 days. In a place that does its best to support him, but where he can’t even get a hug. A hug.
“But it’s not always like that, right?”
No, not always. For severe cases, almost always. The students who have the most to lose, try the hardest, and stay the longest. If, at midnight on their 18th birthday, they weren’t taken to county, we would have many many more. We have 4 students right now who will be with us until they turn 18, or until their cases are closed like this one. We are a small facility, in one county, in a state that is consistently trying to reduce recidivism and reform the system. Imagine how many kids there are like him, who are trapped in limbo, waiting for a future that will be decided for them, for a disproportionate amount of their life across this country.
Only some will get time served. Most will cave and take a plea deal because they can’t stand not knowing anymore, and the fear of facing a jury who will judge them is too much.
Did they do a bad thing? If they are found guilty, yes, surely they did. But what about “innocent until proven guilty” and the “right to a fair and speedy trial”?
These are our country’s most desperate, broken, disadvantaged children.
These are their lives in limbo.