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Justice Talk

Join Today's Discussion on Juvenile Justice

Today from 11 AM to 5 PM EST, we'll be talking juvenile justice with Digg. Brush up by reading some of the best reporting we could find on the topic, and then bring your questions for the experts.

Update: The Dialog is live! Go here.

Tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, the Marshall Project and Digg will be hosting an online discussion — the latest installment of our “Justice Talk” series — about juvenile justice. (It’s the topic that you, dear readers, most wanted to talk about according to our February poll.)

To help you prepare for the discussion, we’ve compiled a reading list of some of the best stories written on the subject. They cover everything from the school-to-prison pipeline to kids who are tried as adults. Brush up and prepare your questions for our experts.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

If you’re new to the topic, start by watching this video explainer. A trip to the principal’s office is not the worst consequence kids face these days.

“When School Feels Like Jail,” The Marshall Project, November 2015

Partly in response to the Obama administration’s push to end the school-to-prison pipeline, school administrators around the country are beginning to suspend and expel fewer students. But in places like the Mississippi Delta, where poverty and violence leads to misbehavior in the classroom, teachers with limited resources rely on traditional but destructive practices. Those practices include paddling and whipping students and sending them to in-school isolation rooms.

“What if everything you knew about disciplining kids was wrong?” Mother Jones, May 2015

Most schools and teachers continue to rely on a system of rewards and punishment — prizes for good behavior, consequences for misbehavior. But recent developmental psychology research indicates that “consequences have consequences.” In other words, treating kids as bad actors may create momentary peace in a classroom, but it undermines their long-term autonomy and socialization.

Inexcusable Absences, The Marshall Project, March 2015

In Pennsylvania, more than three days of unexcused absences from school can result in parents and kids being sent to court, where they face fees and fines for each additional day of missed classes. Families in the Keystone State aren’t alone; nationally, there are more than 150,000 truancy cases every year, leading to fines, probation, and loss of custody.

Kids Who Are Tried as Adults

“Direct Fail,” 5280, The Denver Magazine, December 2011

In seven states, prosecutors can “direct file” any case — any child of any age accused of any crime — into the adult system. This prize-winning 2011 longread takes a close look at one of those states, Colorado, and the often-irreversible harm done when prosecutors fast-track kids into adult court and adult prison.

What’s Justice For Kids Who Kill? The Marshall Project, June 2015

States across the country are debating whether to raise the age of criminal responsibility. But what about when the crime is murder? The case of Kahton Anderson, a teen who shot an innocent bystander during a battle between Brooklyn street crews, offers an introduction to both sides of the raise-the-age debate.

“The Willie Bosket Case,” The Marshall Project, December 2014

In 1978, a black teenager named Willie Bosket killed two people and shot a third on the New York City subway. Within a few weeks, then-Governor Hugh Carey called an emergency session of the New York state legislature in order to draft a bill requiring harsher punishment for teens like Bosket. The resulting law has been in effect ever since, channeling thousands of 13, 14, and 15-year-old New Yorkers into the adult system. The law was also the basis for the next two decades of tough-on-juveniles legislation around the country.

“No Remorse,” The New Yorker, January 2012

A 14-year-old boy in rural Michigan shoots his grandfather point-blank in the head. What should happen next? Should he be tried as an adult? Should he be considered insane? Should he be put in prison for the remainder of his life? Rachel Aviv’s take on the gut-wrenching saga of Dakotah Eliason addresses these questions and more.

This Boy’s Life, The Marshall Project, January 2016

Taurus Buchanan was 16 years old when he threw one deadly punch for which he received a sentence of life without parole. His sentence was the result of policies passed during and after the “superpredator” craze of the 1980s and 1990s. But even though the Supreme Court has since banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles, Buchanan and more than 2,000 other people are still locked up for life because of crimes they committed as juveniles. Both the prosecutor who handled Buchanan’s case and The New York Times have called for his release.

After Kids Are Sentenced

A Boy Among Men, The Marshall Project, February 2015

The Prison Rape Elimination Act is meant to protect the “young and inexperienced” from sexual assault behind bars. The data isn’t great, as many juveniles are afraid to report attacks; but a 1989 study found that youth in adult prisons reported sexual attacks five times more often than those in juvenile facilities. So is the law preventing attacks as intended? Our Maurice Chammah investigates.

Before The Law, The New Yorker, October 2014

Kalief Browder, who was accused of stealing a backpack just before he turned 17, spent three years on Rikers Island, much of it in solitary, waiting for a trial that never came. Last year, at the age of 21, he committed suicide. In an interview with The Marshall Project, Browder’s mother said that he seemed different after coming home from Rikers: “The solitary confinement really messed him up. It made him very paranoid…. To show you how far his paranoia went, it got to the point where I couldn’t watch certain TV channels because he said they were linked to the police, and if I had those channels on they could see or hear anything going on in the house.”

Cruel and All-Too-Usual, The Huffington Post, July 2015

When children are housed in facilities with limited access to psychological services, with a high risk of sexual assault, and with guards who are used to dealing with adults, the chances of rehabilitation decreases significantly. Here is a narrative deep-dive into what it’s like to be a teen in adult prison.

The Crimes of Children, The Atlantic, August 2015

Collateral consequences are penalties for a crime that follow you home afteryour time behind bars. They include being placed on a sex-offender registry, owing restitution with interest, or losing access to public housing. For juveniles, these secondary consequences can turn a moment of bad judgement into an irreparable mistake.