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They Cage Our Kids!

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When there is an Attica, everyone stops and remembers, for a while, all the sisters and brothers who are locked in prisons in America. For maybe a month, everyone talks of how awf ui it is that we still take people who are in trouble and cage them up. And then, we drift back into the immediate scènes we live in, and our rage against prison walis and bars slides back into the corners of our minds. Today, thoucands of brothers and sisters between the ages of twelve and sixteen are locked away from the world in juvenile facilities in this state. Most of them are made to wear sterile detention dothes. They may not smoke nor use marijuana, nor drink, and they are fed on frozen and instant and packacvd foods. They must go to bed when they are told (usually no later than 9:00 p.m.), and rite when they are told. Often they are sexually segregateti, and where together, they are not allowed to touch eacü other. They are rarely able to listen to music, and they only have access to literatura that is chosen for them. They may not ufe fourletter words in their conversation, and most timet they may neither yell at their keepers, nor ditobey the rulet, regardlest of what the rulot are. And they are alwayt observad -even in bathing-always watched. Some of them are kept caged for as loofl as six months at a time without ever having been convicted of a crime. Many, convicted of such crimes as "running away" or being "out of the parents' control" or "truancy" ' are taken from their communities and sent to corrective centers andor mental institutions for anywhere from a few months to one or two years. Frequently, no bond is set for them, and f their crimas are misdemeanors, they are not eligible for free, court-appointed legal defense, even though they may be committed to institutions for the same misdemeanors. If they are in detention in winter, they may spend severa! months without once going outside for a breath of fresh air. They do not see the sky and stars, nor feel the sun and winds on their bodies. Often, apart from being stripped of their individual choice of clothes, their hair is cut and their make-up taken away. They rrmy be in acute pain from years of being told that they are ugly and worthless by their parents, their schools, the televisión, magazines, and the whole middle class culture; but still, what they have left of themselves in their clothet, jewelry, language and music is taken from them. If they cannot "cooperate" with the rules, staff and other brothers and tittert in detention, they are isolated in their cll. In the newest detention hornat n the ttate, their "roomt" cont itt of cement blocfc walli, oement slabs with mattrne on them for bedt, bedding, and one narrow, heavily meh window (which is often painted on the outiíde so they cannot see out). An average day in detention consitts of riting around teven, thowering, eating breakfast, deaning (dithet, mopping, tometimet laundry), going to school dasses within the building, eating lunch, deaning, school, eating dinner, deaning, teievision, and bed. The kidt may have vititort only two hourt a week, and then usaall y only their perent! or their adult sisters and brother j. Never their friendt or lovers. Generally once a we k, and sometí mes every day, their roomt are shaken down for "contraband." Sometimes they are almott all detperately tad, anxiom, afraid and in deep emotional pain. These young kids are in trouble, and we who remain free can take definite action to help them. What we can do it this; Firtt, vote only for candidates for Probate Judge (the head of the Juvenile Court and Detention ín every county by state law) who epouse a firm belief in unlocking the door and turning the juvenile facilitiet tnto posi tive, creative drop-in centert instead of jailt. Detention hornet are run by the judges, and since the Probate Judge s an elected official, we have to make our voices and votes feit, either for or against candidates, depending on what they are willing to do for the kids. Second, form people's committees to investígate the conditions within the juvenile facilities in our communities and to organizo support at the polls and on the streets for any changes that are needed. Third, petition for the recall of any Probate Judge who continúes to be a jailor of kids. Fourth, open up our homes as foster hornet for the Juvenile Court, so our kids can be kept with us instead of being sent to huge, restrictive institutions. There is a desperate need for foster homes that are not afraid or unwitling to accept juveniles who are troubled, and many times it is the unavailability of such homes that results in a sister or brother being sent away. Fifth, creaie arop-in centers staffed by lawyers, psycho-therapists, doctors, friends, and whatever else can help kids deal with the emotional pressures of their oppression, and with warm beds and good food for kids who have had to run from their homes. Sixth, go to the detention homes in our 'ömmunities and find out what the sisters and brothers need and get it for them, be it cigarettes or attorneys, or just someone to talk vith. Seventh, help the young brothers and sisters we see on the streets who are in deep trouble, really help them, which meansdoing whatever is necessary so that they can feel good in themselves and don't have to shoot themselves up or break and enter or viólate anyone. We must give them our help, or let them be tnatched by the state. Eighth, go en matte to the detention hornet and demand that the doors be opened once and for all, and resolve that we shall all take the respontibility for and the care of our kids who need help, instead of allowing them to be shipped off, out of our reach, and into the hands of wardens and guards. Ninth, counsel the parents we know, and ourselves to give our kids our love and support and then let them be instead of trying to control them or make them live up to our fantasies. Tenth, support with your energy the people's programs of the Ann Arbor Tribal Council and other cooperative economie programs to help eradicate the poverty that drivet people to commit crimes for survival. And last, love our children more, even when they are not bright nor pretty nor skillful nor what we would like. Especially then. It is what the community demands that wíll determine whether the future of the Ju' venile Court wilt be growth and the opening up of doors or stagnation and increased reprettion. And it is how much each of u ín every community is willing o get down and love our kid. The community mgtt control its juvenile inttitutiont, and ttop delegating that control into the hands of politiciansand pólice. We gotta look into the faces of the kids around us and see the suffering and the need that is there, and deal with it. Deal with it. "THE COMMUNITY MUST CONTROL ITS JUVENILE INSTITUTIONS, AND STOP DELEGATING THAT CONTROL INTO THE HANDS OF POLITICIANS AND PÓLICE."