Giroux: Criminalizing Youth

Last week, a lawsuit involving the corruption of two northeast Pennsylvania judges made national headlines. The suit alleges that the two judges accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks to incarcerate juveniles convicted of petty crimes to private detention centers.

Professor and critic Henry Giroux sees the case as symptomatic of a larger cultural malaise, one that specifically affects youth marginalized by class and race. In his article "Locked Out and Locked Up: Youth Missing in Action from Obama's Stimulus Plan," Giroux criticizes the "thunderous silence on the part of many critics and academics regarding the ongoing insecurity and injustice experienced by young people in this country, which is now being intensified as a result of the state's increasing resort to repression and punitive social policies." The idea of a "post-racial Obama era," Giroux says, is "meaningless" as long as race- and class-based prejudices and objectification through consumerism continue to dictate the lives of young people in the United States.

Giroux includes the following statistics from the Children's Defense Fund Annual Report from 2007:
  • Almost 13 million children in America live in poverty - 5.5 million in extreme poverty.
  • 4.2 million children under the age of five live in poverty.
  • 35.3 percent of black children, 28.0 percent of Latino children and 10.8 percent of white, non-Latino children live in poverty.
  • There are 9.4 million uninsured children in America.
  • Latino children are three times as likely, and black children are 70 percent more likely, to be uninsured than white children.
  • Only 11 percent of black, 15 percent of Latino and 41 percent of white eighth graders perform at grade level in math.
  • Each year 800,000 children spend time in foster care.
  • On any given night, 200,000 children are homeless - one out every four of the homeless population.
  • Every 36 seconds a child is abused or neglected - almost 900,000 children each year.
  • Black males ages 15-19 are about eight times as likely as white males to be gun homicide victims.
  • Although they represent 39 percent of the US juvenile population, minority youth represent 60 percent of committed juveniles.
  • A black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance.
  • Black juveniles are about four times as likely as their white peers to be incarcerated. Black youths are almost five times as likely and Latino youths about twice as likely to be incarcerated as white youths of drug offenses.
  • The current decline in the economy and quality of life, and the racialized criminal justice system, argues Giroux, is only worsening the situation of marginalized children in the US.

    Read Giroux's entire article at
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    1. Anonymous6:57 PM


    2. Amy Goodman addresses the issue as well in her article "Jailing Kids for Cash."


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