I read a heartbreaking story today of a man who was incarcerated in a supermax prison. He talked about how his cell was between the cells of a 16 and 17 year old. There was a 15 year old above him. They were all in solitary confinement due the their age to keep them "safe". He told of how these children cried out in loneliness and hopelessness and how they constantly talked about committing suicide. He sang to them from sun up till sun down to help allay their deep fears. Knowing that my son experienced this deep, deep pain to the point that he did take his life makes me wonder who are the real criminals. The ones who place our children in these death holes or the ones who sing to them to keep their fears at bay?
My name is Tracy McClard and I live in Jackson, MO. In 2008, I lost my barely 17 year old son, Jonathan, in Missouri’s criminal justice system.
Testimony before House of Education of Labor Committee on April 21, 2010. In this picture is Chairman George Miller and me.
Recommendations and Conclusion:
Jonathan’s experience taught me that no child should be placed with adults no matter what, because when children are put in with adults they die - physically or mentally. I also believe that all kids deserve a second chance. As a parent, one of the most frustrating things for me was that the court, the judges, and the prosecutors didn’t know my son - they hadn’t raised him like I had; they didn’t even know him as a person - but they weren’t willing to give him the second chance they might have given to their own kids if they were in the same situation. Finally, if the goal of the juvenile and criminal justice system is to keep our communities safe, how safe can our communities be if a kid in Jonathan’s position would have spent five, ten, fifteen or more years in the conditions Jonathan faced and with the role models he had?