In a 2013 study done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, it was found that, in 2010, there were approximately 250,000 youth in confinement. In comparison to 1997’s statistic, this was an overall decline, however, there still remains a large number of convicted youth in the United States. Of these 250K convicted youth, only 1 of every 4, or 25%, of all convicted youth were incriminated for violent crime. Among the most “popular” convictions were drug possession, violation of probation, and low-level property defenses. This being said, most confined youth are given lost sentences at a young age, incarcerating them for a fraction of their life where education and mental development are critical.
Scrolling through my Facebook feed on a Monday night, avoiding all homework assignments for my classes the following day, I fell upon a Soul Pancake video titled “What It’s Like To Be Incarcerated At 16 Years Old.” During the 5 minute and 28-second video, I learned about Daniel. Daniel was incarcerated before his 16th birthday and was given a 20 year sentence. With 20 years taken away from him, Daniel missed proms, graduation, and a lot of home-cooked food, which he talks about in his interview with Maya, a college student. To make up for lost time and participate in the rehabilitation process of incarceration, Daniel is pursuing education through the Gateways for Incarcerated Youth at Green Hills School.
Inspired by Daniel’s story, I looked into the program further and found that the Green Hills School in Chehalis, WA is a maximum security facility that offers male offenders the opportunity to earn a diploma, GED, pre-college courses, and vocational training. Amongst other opportunities for rehabilitation and therapy, the school works in tandem with the Gateways for Incarcerated Youth (or Gateways) program. Gateways allows students and faculties of the Evergreen State College to work with and mentor incarcerated youth during their educational training. By assimilating incarcerated youth back into society and providing them with the resources to advance their life from behind bars, hundreds of lives are being turned around like Daniel’s, who now wants to mentor youth in dangerous areas to steer them away from gang activity and crime.
With the efforts of these programs, we as a society are one step closer to ending youth incarceration as a whole:
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
The Evergreen State College