Literally. Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to visit New Beginnings, a residential juvenile justice facility. It is located in Maryland but serves as the home to about 60 male adjudicated youths from the DC area. The purpose of my visit was to participate in a Harambee session that takes place every morning. In the 30 minute session, the youth are woken up and brought to “life” with the help of music, dancing, and readings. Guest are invited to the facility to read excerpts from their favorite poem or other literary work; I chose “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni.
After the Harambee session we were invited to visit the youth in their classrooms and see how they interacted with each other and handled various tasks. While I did enjoy my visit, I was left feeling a bit unimpressed. Obviously the staff at New Beginnings showed us the “pretty” part of the facility. They let us see the youth in areas where they are heavily guarded and constantly watched. Since I am very interested in justice issues for youth with disabilities, I would have liked to see how the youth interact with each other when they are in more recreational settings. I would have also liked to see residential areas.
The best thing about this visit was that it has deepened my interests in juvenile justice issues. Visiting this facility makes me want to learn more about youth that commit crimes and why they commit them. I am becoming more and more interested in stopping the school to prison pipeline and helping youth to seek the appropriate services that will help to keep them on the right path.
Until next time,