When people talk about overhauling the juvenile justice system, the conversation often comes in broad terms and statistics—void of individual faces or voices of the youth affected by programs and punishment. But when I spent two hours talking to a former correctional facility educator for a series on juvenile justice, the story suddenly became very real.
Jane Guttman shared her perspective on education in the juvenile justice system with such passion, I only had to ask her one question to get everything I needed—a rarity for a reporter. I decided to talk to Guttman over the phone about her book, “Kids In Jail,” an anthology of poetry that teaches readers about the trauma and hardships that lead children into the juvenile justice system.
Guttman introduces her work with a straightforward, if not blunt, introduction of what she learned about the children she taught in youth prisons.
“We’ve heard some scathing stories in those lost childhoods,” Guttman writes. “Kids burned, abandoned, abused, molested, neglected, born addicted, parents in jail, parents addicted; and what about no home, no food, no guidance, and at times, no love.”
She makes those struggles and their lives come alive in the poetry that follows, titling each piece with a child’s name. And while the melodic cadence of her stanzas doesn’t make it easier to confront the horrors that young offenders face, it’s still a must-read for anyone who was ever a child.
Listen to Guttman share the impact of “Kids In Jail” and read an excerpt.
For more information, read my juvenile justice series:
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