On September 2, I posted a "blog" in which I described a recent arrest of some youth for stealing a car. In the blog, I mentioned how we had arrested the youth numerous times before. I asked those who read the blog to send me an email with their thoughts on how to curb youth crime and prevent some from being arrested 8-10 times before they even turn 17 years old. The community responded and I read each of your 94 emails, some of them twice. Great ideas! The overall theme of the emails illustrates the following: Madison cares, Madison wants to be safe, Madison wants the youth to be held accountable and see a path to a better life than criminal acts. I cannot list every email in this blog, nor every idea; however, I noted various themes that respondents shared. Most of the emails want the youth "to be held accountable" in some fashion. The accountability ranged from "confinement", to group homes and service hours. The noted item was the family. Email respondents noted there must be family issues that need assistance. I categorized another common idea from the community and that was "occupied time". The community felt that idle time for some youth could be more productive at a neighborhood center and with teen jobs in the community.
Additionally, social workers, former teachers, former juvenile correction center employees and business leaders reached out with thoughts. Some committed programs, ideas and pledged support (financially) if it all came together.
There were various interesting comments throughout the emails, but this one struck me (paraphrasing): I worked in juvenile corrections and I had youth plead with me to put them on the bracelet, because that gave them a reason to have to stay inside and to have to disassociate with other youth who were in trouble.
Perhaps our resources could entertain a new approach, based on various themes that came in, and that would be to focus on their environment. Why do some youth commit crimes and others do not? Why is there a comfort in stealing cars, committing burglaries and shooting people with some youth and not others? The environments are complex as some youth battle trauma, abuse, education deficiencies, systemic racism, family evictions, unemployment and substance abuse that affect their daily lives. Could you imagine such a life? Could you imagine such a life, right here in Madison? It exists and it will not get better and we will not feel safer until we drill down to these root causes.
In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with non-profits, juvenile judges and more to continue working on this project. We will bring forth your ideas as we look to a better way for our youth other than arresting them 8-10 times before they are 17. The investment encompasses the entire community.