The next step on this path of failure for these young children is often through prison doors. Those who come from addicted or neglectful homes often turn to drugs and alcohol. This leads to addiction and securing ways to feed their addiction. In the state of Colorado, 66% of our prison population is there because of drug related crimes. If you are dealt with in a violent manner in your home, you learn to deal with stressful situations with violence. If you grow up in a home where rules are broken, where the things that are not supposed to happen to you DO happen, you do not learn right from wrong. Let me emphasize that statement because it is very important for us to hear and understand. There has been much discussion and controversy over the ability of a young person to make adult decisions and be held accountable as an adult for their actions. First and foremost kids are not adults. They do not have the mental capacity to live past, or see past, the events that are right in front of them. This is true of a "normal" adolescent that has been raised in a positive environment. Now add to that immaturity, the impact of being raised in an environment where violation of right and wrong is an every day occurrence. They are not taught nor have the ever experienced the difference between right and wrong. They are told that abuse is wrong (from outside sources) but it happens in their home. They are taught (in school) that drugs are bad and can lead to a life of destruction but it is an everyday occurrence in their home. They are told and disciplined for the use of violence to solve problems but that is how problems are solved at home.
The lack of focus on juvenile reform issues, addiction treatment and child protection has resulted in a bulging prison system. We take those who have been neglected, abused and unprepared for successful futures and confirm their lack of worth by condemning them to prison. Our focus has been on "tough on crime" policies. We may be better served by focusing on the health and welfare of the members of our community.