Juvenile offenders often suffer great injustice, dean says

By on February 20, 2016
The Louisville Cardinal News

By Kyeland Jackson–

A&S dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard lectured on the injustice of the juvenile prison system Thursday, saying, “A lot of the criminal justice system is oriented towards punishment and retribution.”

She discussed the history of the juvenile system, and policies structured around it. Some policies make it harder to exit the system, such as an option to be put into the juvenile system by non-police referrals.

One policy hit close to home, as Kempf -Leonard said, “There are 23 states, Kentucky is one of them, that children as young as 7 can be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated in adult prisons.”

The discussion involved race and gender as well, as Kempf-Leonard discussed the flaws in the system for groups involved. Some students asked if statistics were done according to gender identification, to which she replied “wouldn’t that be nice.”

She explained that such  statistics are largely underrepresented in the juvenile system, as it has yet to try gathering such data.

The Q&A discussion ended with questions on the future of the juvenile prison system and ways it could be fixed. Several dozen participants attended the lecture in the Chao Auditorium.

Junior Landon Lauder, a political science and psychology major, attended as part of the social change program. “Getting a really good expert’s view on it (social change) and the research she’s done was really enlightening for me,” Lauder said.

The lack of accountability for judges, Lauder said, was the biggest takeaway from the discussion. Judges have a large amount of power in such cases, and can essentially decide the fate of towns by themselves. Kempf-Leonard summarized this while describing her experience with a Philadelphia judge who took all juvenile offenders from their home and put them into a correctional facility.

Maria Gurren, an alumni and coordinator of the juvenile justice advisory committee in Louisville also enjoyed the event. “It’s really good that the university is focusing on issues within the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. It’s definitely something that the city of Louisville as a whole is focused on,” She said. “I’m looking forward to the next one.”

The next crime and punishment  lecture, “Disrupting Democracy: Felony Disenfranchisement and the ‘Smart on Crime’ Era,” will be delivered by criminal justice professor Cherie Dawson-Edwards. It’s scheduled for March 3 in the Chao Auditorium from 4-5:30 p.m.

About Kyeland Jackson

Editor-in-Chief at The Louisville Cardinal.

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