December 16, 2009 by JSOnline — This summer I asked if a 13-year-old girl should be charged as an adult after she was accused of stabbing and killing a man married to her grandmother.

Labrina Brown had troubles that began before the stabbing incident. She was raped, abused and bounced around to different homes. She was failed by many before she fatally stabbed Robert Moon during an argument.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill Thursday that provides funds to states that follow guidelines on how the nation deals with youth like Labrina after they commit a adult crimes.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act calls for the following:

  • Keeping juveniles charged as adults separate from adult offenders.
  • No longer locking up juveniles charged with “status” offenses like truancy or running away from home.
  • Make state more aware of how they address minority youth compared to white counterparts.

We know that placing a juvenile in prison with adults does nothing but place that child at risk of being raped or becoming more violent by the time they are released. This also does little in the form of rehabilitation, and yes there is still time to rehabilitate someone like Labrina.

We also know that programs like Violence Free Zones and Running Rebels in Milwaukee helps to deal with issues like truancy and it offers a better alternative than throwing kids in jail.

But another issue that hardly gets talked about is how black and Hispanic youths are dealt with by the system compared to their white counterparts. Blacks and Hispanic juveniles are more likely to be detained than whites and be tried as adults than whites accused of the same crimes, the act states.

If the bill passes, states that follow the guidelines can receive some of the $245 million available in 2010. I think the act is better than the status quo, but I know a lot more can be done and that starts at home.

But lets face it, too many children are not learning those lessons at home and they become society’s problem.

What are your thoughts?

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