Blog: Alabama

Teens in Juvenile Justice System Creating Hope and Opportunity through The Beat Within's Writing and Art Program

For the better part of the last two decades, The Beat Within has been committed to a mission of providing incarcerated youth with a forum where they can write (and draw) about the things that matter most to them, explore how they have lost connection with those things they value, and consider how they might re-connect to positive situations in their lives through the power of the written word.
This is a program that started small, in the Bay Area, with a commitment to provide detained kids between the ages of 11 to 18 with a safe space to share their ideas and experiences while promoting literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community.
That modest local effort has grown into a nationwide program that touches the lives of more than 5,000 youth in detention. Today, you can find weekly Beat workshops going on in 12 California county juvenile halls, from Alameda to San Diego. We are partnering with universities from U.C. Berkeley to the University of Hawaii. Meanwhile, the workshop model for The Beat is being replicated in Arizona, Texas, Alabama, New Mexico, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and, thanks to the JJIE, Georgia.

Throwaway Kids: Is It Time to Rethink Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentencing?

Next week the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two historic cases. Incredibly, the cases — from Alabama, Miller v. Alabama, and Arkansas, Jackson v. Hobbs — concern the practice, unique to the United States, of imprisoning teenagers for the rest of their natural lives for crimes committed while they were still developing into adulthood. The U.S. stands utterly alone on this one — no other country in the world locks up its children for crimes committed before they could legally drive, join the military, vote or sometimes even get married.
Miller and Jackson are next in a line of cases decided recently by the Court addressing appropriate constitutional protections and punishment of youth. In Roper v. Simmons in 2005, the Supreme Court found the death sentence for any minor convicted of murder unconstitutional; in Graham v. Florida, five years later, the Court barred a life-without-parole sentence for a minor who committed a crime other than murder. The fundamental reasoning of these decisions was that undeveloped youthful judgment and moral sense make severe punishment cruel and unusual — and thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Last year, in J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the Court recognized that there is a heightened risk of coercion when children are subject to police interrogation without their parents or a lawyer in the room.