Almost all children go through a rebel phase, where they think mouthing off to their teachers, violating their curfews and cutting classes will make them popular or draw praise from their peers.
Although irritating, it is actually a part of growing up.
Most do not consider these actions serious crimes or something that should get a kid handcuffed and sent to juvenile detention — but sadly, thousands of kids every year do end up in jail for offenses that aren't considered criminal if committed by an adult.
These violations are known as “status offenses” and only those under the age of 18 are subjected to these charges.
"The reason they're not crimes for adults is that they typically don't impact public safety," Marc Levin, one of the authors of the Texas Public Policy Foundation report on the matter, told Rolling Stone. "It illustrates the need to take a more rehabilitative approach that can avoid confinement."
In a recent report by the Vera Institute of Justice, researchers found out up to 100,100 kids were put in jail over status offenses in 2014 alone — the most recent year for which the data is available.
Given how systemic racism is deeply inherent in our society, it did not come as much of a surprise that African-American, LGBTQ and poor children suffer the most. It is also important to mention that boys in general receive more preferential treatment than girls do. Where authorities give male children the benefit of the doubt, female children are seen as unruly.
Needless to say, locking up a child, that too for non-criminal behavior, has adverse psychological effects. However, it remains a common practice that tends to affect children already in vulnerable situations.
Although the description of status offenses varies in each state, but apart from underage drinking, these are the common categories:
In some states, like Wisconsin, kids can be referred to court for missing school for a certain number of days without any feasible excuse or for being late to school. Now, some kids might actually be acting out by skipping school, but what about children living in poverty or those living in broken homes? Not being able to attend school on certain days might be something beyond their control, but they are punished nonetheless.
Running Away/Getting Kicked Out
“Kids are charged with running away when they leave home overnight without guardian permission,” the organization wrote in its study. However, not all kids who face charges for “running away” have actually willing left their homes. Some of these children are actually kicked out of their houses by their parents or guardians.
This is a very wide-ranging category.
“It serves as a catch-all for any time kids repeatedly defy directives from parents, guardians, or even legal custodians (such as teachers), and it often encompasses other status offenses,” the study claimed.
Staying in public or a business establishment beyond specified hours can also land kids in jail.
“Curfew enforcement is dependent on the officer, and violations tend to occur in communities with more low-income families and higher levels of policing,” the researchers wrote.
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