Viewpoint: Give detained youth reason to hope

2010-09-22T20:31:00Z Viewpoint: Give detained youth reason to hope Ravalli Republic
September 22, 2010 8:31 pm

To those commissioned with the incarceration and care of the youth at the Hamilton Youth Detention Center:

My 14-year-old nephew is currently incarcerated at the Hamilton Youth Detention Center. He has been found to have an addiction that has been deemed harmful to society. His parents have been as constant an influence in his recovery as they are allowed, given the visiting restrictions of the facility.

I am writing this letter, not to diminish the weight of the actions of the young people who are in detention, but as a plea for their well-being.

As far back as 1900, over 100 ago, a movement was begun to reform the American prison system. This was in an effort to give adult offenders a quality of life that would give them hope and eventually give them the ability and desire to be contributing members of society if and when they were released, or even prior to their releases.

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, are our youth less important to us in Hamilton, Montana than the adult offenders who are given the privileges and opportunities to enhance their minds, develop life and career skills and have outdoor recreation and activity? Have we thrown these youth away as "useless" or "problems" because of the follies of their youth? It seems it is so. And shame on our community if this is true.

The youth at the Hamilton Detention Center are fed and clothed and kept clean, but their minds and bodies are idle, and angry youth are becoming increasingly frustrated and more hopeless. Neither my nephew, nor the other youth at the center are provided with activities for their minds or bodies, not to mention the deterioration of their spirits - a sense of hope. If my nephew's parents and members of the clergy from our church did not provide it, he would be left destitute in this way also. He has not seen the light of day, felt the sunshine on his face, or breathed fresh outdoor air for over three months, (the vitamin D deficiency alone contributes to the depression already deeply felt). Nor have the other boys during their periods of incarceration. Suicidal tendencies are "normal" in this facility. Youth are left to pace their rooms back and forth for hours at a time, given no outlet for their emotions or negative energy, much like caged animals. There is far too much unused time on their hands. These boys see no hope for eventual progress and no success in their lives. Abuse, physically, mentally and emotionally at the hands of other youths, is rampant.

How, in these circumstances, can we have any hope that these young men will grow to be anything other than detriments to society? They have clearly received the message that they are garbage, and so they will become. We will get what we have created.

These young men have been failed already, in many cases, by their parents. And now we, as a community have also failed them. It would take a miracle for any of them to become confident, contributing men. I believe in miracles. I also believe, and know from life's experiences, that sometimes the wounds inflicted in our youth by the failures of those whose responsibility it is to nurture and love them, are too deep and destructive to heal from or find recovery

I do not blame the caregivers in the detention center as much as 1 blame our elected officials who see this problem and do not deem it important enough to correct. Mr. Fulbright has said that, "I don't know what to do about it. [They] are menace[s] to society."

This may well be a true statement, Mr. Fulbright, but if we do not do something, instead of making the excuse, "I don't know what to do", we doom our lost children to lasting failure. Hiring activities directors and recreation directors, and providing an outdoor playground are some suggestions. Instructors and career specialists are another idea. Professionals who can teach them to socialize positively in the "real world" are vital to their success. Please, provide positive influences to these kids in addition to the short-staffed, overworked and underpaid, overwhelmed caregivers who are trying their best to be everything to these boys.

If our children are not important enough to us to teach, rear, nurture, develop and build, we will indeed have what we have created.

My prayers and hopes are that our elected officials will wake up, and help to save our lost and confused children, before they become lost and confused residents of the adult prison system. These kids are, in fact, our responsibility.

Brynn Dubose

Stevensville

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(8) Comments

  1. Mike Miller
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    Mike Miller - October 04, 2010 11:13 pm
    I say we take away the cable TV and weights, and bring back the chain gangs for community service. Work the crap out of them during the day, feed them well, and they will be too tired to start crap! If they warrant (no pun intended) favorable actions, let them do some sort further education/job training. I feel the need to reimpliment the reality of "responsibility for one's actions" is sorely needed today.
  2. Sunshineintheroot
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    Sunshineintheroot - September 28, 2010 11:45 am
    PLEASE tell me this article isn't about the kid I saw in court a couple months ago being charged as an adult who "borrowed" a toddler from the park and brutally raped her! Keep that one away from my kids, don't give him a outdoor play area!!!

    I love how people use the words "addiction" and "recovery" when they should be using "EVIL"!
  3. Lockthemup
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    Lockthemup - September 28, 2010 11:39 am
    The 10 foot by 15 foot concrete hole in adult detention is not going to prevent these kids from getting depressed. Sitting in detention for months contemplating one's crimes will break even the strongest. Why is your nephew in youth detention for a couple months? The center is typically overnight unless they are being charged as an adult.
  4. wake up
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    wake up - September 28, 2010 9:05 am
    Don't these kids already have a recreation area with a TV, games and a video game system? I recently read an article where two kids took an officer there and beat her! So the kids have this and frequent visitations and now we have to build them an outdoor area? As a taxpayer, I SAY NO!!! Have them do their time rotting their brains with TV and playing video games inside for a couple months. That'll show them. *rolls eyes*
  5. mommy11
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    mommy11 - September 26, 2010 9:07 pm
    Dear Travis,
    I don't remeber Brynn mentioning a playground, I do however remember her mentioning an outdoor recreational area. For your infromation,the adult detention side of the center does have an outdoor yard for inmates! Kids with raging hormones and a greater hope for recovery, deserve at least this much, don't you think? hopeless, kids who don't have enough to do will do some pretty crazy things like think up ways to escape, contemplate suicide, cut themselves etc. kids who feel needed can make amazing changes and become contributing adults. I have more hope for our youth than I do adults, so why are our adult prisoners given more advantage?!
  6. Travis
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    Travis - September 26, 2010 11:25 am
    Brynn,

    Do you really want these kids to have more “fun” time? Give them a playground and an activities director? A cheaper more efficient way of accomplishing what you are looking for is to just put a fence around the Hamilton High School and call that the Juvenile Detention. I appreciate you are very close to the situation and that may be clouding your judgment. We as a community need to remember that these are not run of the mill kids. There are hundreds of kids in high school in Ravalli County, yet less than a dozen that are locked up. Some for very serious crimes. Remember, less than a year ago a kid took a cribbage board and beat an officer with it. Now we want to give that same kid a play ground. Brynn, I am not saying that that kid was your nephew; but you are not asking for special treatment for just your nephew.

    These kids are in Juvenile Detention for a reason. The sooner that we as a society accept that and stop acting like the crimes these kids commit are not a big deal because they are juveniles, the sooner that we a society will be able to help them. A playground is not the answer.
  7. AC
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    AC - September 23, 2010 10:37 am
    As a former wild and angry youth myself I thank God that I never engaged in truly heinous crimes. For me, joining the US Army forced upon me a sense of purpose and usefulness, and led me to my faith in Christ - for an American under the age of 40, from a culture that has not known true suffering in several decades, Basic Training teaches you in a hurry to look beyond human understanding for answers.

    From the age of 19 to 24, I learned that my birth and mere presence on the planet did not grant me special privileges and rights. If I wanted something I had to work for it, and work hard. Nothing in the human condition is free.
    Our youth should be taught the often hard truths of life long before they get to the point where their only answer is to bludgeon a detention officer with a cribbage board. Schools should be places of learning, yet also they should teach children about honor and duty to the community, the country, and themselves. I would ask that the parents do this, but I think, in all but a few cases, that option is currently off the table for my generation.

    What I consider necessary to save our youth, and by extension our country, may seem draconian, but if some serious actions are not taken, America will be filled with millions more shameless young adults whose only life experiences are texting, sexting, and floating around in some cyber-world. I am 36 years old, so please do not suggest that my ideas are old-fashioned and outdated. Rather, these ideals are timeless and, for myself, they had to be learned through trial and error.

    If you really oppose what I am saying, consider reading Lord of the Flies again, or for the first time. If we do not wake up and realize that the human is a very nasty animal when left to its own devices, if we do not start mesh our freedoms with responsibility and morality, the only thing our youth will have to look forward to are lives dominated by some future tyrant who rules them with an iron fist and more cages.
  8. Hillbilly
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    Hillbilly - September 23, 2010 9:28 am
    Please see pc@bearoutdooradventures.com as an avenue to help kids. They offer a variety of outdoor activities for kids and there's no charge to kids who can't afford to pay. I hope this comment helps. God bless!
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