Should 10 year old children be handcuffed? What about 7 year old children? Or 6 year old children? This isn't a theoretical question. This also isn't a question be asked about children in some foreign sounding distant land. Furthermore it's not a question you're being asked in reference to children with diagnosed mental impairments that could lead them to hurt themselves.
Unfortunately this is a question concerning children being detained and handcuffed, often for hours without parental notification, right here in the USA.
Maybe this first picture doesn't disturb you, maybe you can rationalize it based on the physical size of the child, or that it's just Mississippi:
But what about this next 7 year old child?
7 year old Wilson Reyes, published with permission from his mother Frances Mendez
Maybe you're still rationalizing it. This young man did after all get into a scuffle on the playground, and he was being a bully. Maybe you think he should be taught a lesson.
Well then how do you justify this one?
This young lady's crime was throwing a tantrum in elementary school. For that she was literally thrown in the slammer.
More below the orange fleur-de-lis thingy.
Maybe you read stories like this in The Nation, "The War on Drugs Is a War on Kids":
Drugs are ubiquitous in this country, and yet we know that some people have the privilege of doctor-prescribed intoxication, while others are thrown into dungeons for seeking the same relief. We know that the war on drugs is heavily inflected with Jim Crowism, economic inequality, gun culture myths and political opportunism. We know that Adam Lanza's unfortunate mother was not the sole Newtown resident stocking up on military-style weapons; plenty of suburban gun owners keep similar weapons to protect their well-kept homes against darkly imagined, drug-addled marauders from places like Bridgeport. We divert resources from mental health or rehab, and allocate millions to militarize schools.
The result: the war on drugs has metastasized into a war on children.
Best publicized, perhaps, is the plight of young people in Meridian, Mississippi, where a federal investigation is probing into why children as young as 10 are routinely taken to jail for wearing the wrong color socks or flatulence in class.
Yes this great criminal mastermind was wearing the wrong colors to school, good thing he didn't fart too!
Maybe like many people you associated, war on kids and drugs with a war on teenagers and drugs. Maybe before now you never made the connection with the fact that the prison industrial complex, now dealing with falling crime rates, is looking for new tenants.
The Nation has tried before to make the connection with stories On the Routine Criminalization of America's Black and Brown Youth:
Well, it starts with putting a 7-year-old brown kid in handcuffs over five dollars he didn't steal. Perhaps it's still a foreign concept to most people, but the criminalization of black and brown youth is a daily routine. Reyes' situation isn't unlike that of 6-year-old Salecia Johnson, who in April of last year was arrested and handcuffed in school, after what was described as temper tantrum. Before her, there was 5-year-old Michael Davis, whose hands and feet with restrained with zip ties when his school called the police in to scare away his behavioral problems. The kids get the message a very young age, and the rest the world does as well, that they are potential menaces to society and will be treated as such.
This young menace to society actually didn't steal $5
So now we are reduced to asking questions like "did you ever throw a tantrum as a child"? Or has your child ever thrown a tantrum at the store or in public? Should the police be called for this behavior? How many hours in the slammer is it worth?NewsOne: 8-Year-Old Handcuffed, Jailed For 2 Hours For Throwing Tantrum At School.
Jmyha Rickman's journey to her town's city jail began at Love Joy Elementary School late Tuesday in Alton, Ill. At some point, school officials called the Alton Police Department to help handle the situation. It is not clear if the cops immediately took the child into custody or if they tried to calm her down.
Rickman reportedly has a history of throwing tantrums at the school.
Eventually, she was handcuffed, placed in the backseat of a police car and driven to jail, where she was held for two hours. The little girl said she was not allowed to put on her coat before being taken into custody. Neheniah Keeton, Rickman's guardian, says the cops manhandled her.
Her eyes were swollen from her crying and her wrists had welts on them, Rickman said. They cuffed her feet too and she asked to use the restroom several times and was ignored.
Maybe if she asked to use the restroom, next thing she'll be asking for a pony?
So now let's end the snark and get serious. What can you as a reader do about this situation? The first step is to raise awareness. All across the country young children are being handcuffed in taken into custody. It's also no coincidence that they are overwhelmingly children of color. The larger problem is that there are no national, and few local standards on handling children this young outside of family officers.
When it comes to the Federal standards I started the following White House Petition: "Issue federal guidance on how children under the age of 9 are handled by the police. Should they be handcuffed?" to try and raise national awareness. I urge everyone to sign it and spread the word.
But really to a large degree this is a local issue. As citizens you have the right to contact your local city councils, state representatives, and police departments, and start to ask questions about these practices. Use your 1st amendment powers to petition your government. Children this young shouldn't be handcuffed. Children this young shouldn't be detained by the police without their parents or guardian present.
The answer to the open question, "Should 10 year old kids be handcuffed? What about 7? Or 6?" needs to be a resounding NO! But it's going to take action on our part to make sure this no longer happens.
That's just my two cents.....