Before the beginning of every year, organizational presidents, vice presidents, and board members sit around the table trying to develop a winning strategy for the coming year. It is the same in the world of advocacy. We review the past season's accomplishments and the items that we could not check off our list. We look at the current political climate, the agendas of other organizations, we toss around the general feelings of the public, count the opposition, and start a new plan.
The story is always the same, the debate is always the same, and it is always based around the current political climate. We feed off of each others' catch phrases, we hire experts to help us frame our message appropriately so that we reach a wider audience, and we try to ascertain who our allies are. These are all good strategies if we are trying to work within the constraints of the political process.
As the course is set for the coming year, there are statistics to consider. These are not figures reported in the countless documents that are generated concerning the size of our problem. The consideration should be the individuals who become the statistics in these reports. As we develop strategies and confer with each other concerning the politically correct message that will cause change, our prison population ages. As we agonize over words, pictures, and messages, 14-year-old kids are being sent to adult prisons. As we divide the lists of politicians into "friend or foe" people are abused, mistreated, abandoned, and condemned to a life in prison.
If we are to have any impact I believe we need a new language and a new level of awareness. This is not about the political process, government agencies or any of the old rhetoric we have become so accustomed to using. This is about people, reality, honesty, and justice. We need to be prepared to speak truth and accept truth.
In October of this past year, a 14-year-old boy in Colorado was arrested and charged with killing his parents. In Colorado the District Attorney has the sole authority and right to decide whether or not this young man should be charged as an adult. He was. Then the court was left with the problem of where this kid would be housed. The arguments were heated and loud as the judge tried to decide whether or not to send this young man to county jail where he would be held in solitary confinement during the course of his proceedings and trial. We are a country that declares you are innocent until proven guilty yet we are willing to subject a possibly innocent person to cruel and unusual punishment. Even if this child is guilty of the crimes he is charged with, did it ever occur to anyone that he was in need of serious help? Fourteen-year-old kids do not kill out of malice; only adults with an agenda do that.