UP Catholic 11 13 2015 E Edition Page 4

4 November 13, 2015 THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY www.upcatholic.org Knights of Columbus Retreat January 8-10, 2016 Director: Father Corey Litzner Cost $120.00 This retreat focuses on practical spirituality for men, lived out in the fraternity and service of the Knights of Columbus. Enjoy a remarkable weekend of fellowship, prayer and reflection on the Catholic Faith. Sister Ellen Enright, IBVM OUR NUN" There are no words to express how much you have done for so many. We thank you for your years of ministry to the U.P. We are grateful for all the love and inspiration you have shared with all you know you as you serve the Lord. You are a blessing! May God continue to bless you as you celebrate 50 MORE years as an IBVM Sister, following the way of Mary Ward. - With love, Your Friends in Menominee. Juvenile justice needs reform in Michigan W hen society talks about youth there is a sense of hopefulness and excitement about their future, their growth, and their develop- ment. They will grow up to be parents, commu- nity members, and leaders of the state and the nation. Unfortunately, howev- er, when policy conversations turn to crime, sobering statis- tics and trends about youth offenders emerge that cause concern. Tough on crime legislation enacted by Mich- igan lawmakers in the mid- 1990s has led to a significant number of youth serving adult sentences. These policies have shifted a greater number of ju- venile offenders into a danger- ous adult system rather than providing the rehabilitation that should lead troubled youth down a more constructive path. Clearly, youth are different than adults, espe- cially when considering emotional and psycho- logical development. These differences have been recognized by a growing number of cases in the United States Supreme Court. Scientific research proves that rational decision-making is not fully formed in an individuals brain until they reach their mid-20s. As a result, youth are often more likely to make impulsive decisions without fully thinking through the consequenc- es. At the same time, the fact that youth are still developing makes them more likely than adults to respond to rehabilitative programming. Individuals in juvenile facilities or communi- ty-based programming receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, and vocational training while taking responsibility for their crime. In contrast, juveniles in adult fa- cilities are often segregated or kept in isolation, as federal law requires that they be kept sight and sound from adults. While this requirement is aimed at protecting youth, segregation and isolation too often increase the risk of depres- sion, anxiety, or self-harm. From 2003 to 2013, more than 20,000 Michigan juveniles received an adult sentence, including detention in jail or imprisonment for their crime (Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency). A majority of these crimes were for nonviolent offenses. Rates of juvenile crime and recidivism demon- strate that the tough on crime approach is not working. In fact, without proper rehabilitation, youth reoffend at a rate between 50 and 75 percent. Recently, a smart on crime approach has gained momentum in the legislature, which encourages the use of evidence-based program- ming to reduce incarceration rates. Smart on crime measures recognize that the causes of crime are complex, improvements to reentry services are critical to lowering recidivism, and alternative sentencing for low-level, nonviolent offenses can be effective. The Catholic Churchs teaching on Restorative Justice correlates well with smart on crime policies. It seeks to support victims, hold offend- ers accountable, protect community safety, promote healing and forgiveness, and inspire rehabilitation in the offenders life. The justice system should punish offenders for their crimes, including youth, but it must also be as rehabili- tative as possible. In October, Michigan lawmakers introduced a bipartisan package of bills to address juvenile justice. Michigan Catholic Conference is sup- portive of measures that would return the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 and prevent youth younger than age 18 from being housed in adult prisons and jails. During his trip to the United States in Septem- ber, Pope Francis visited a correctional facility in Philadelphia. There, before greeting prisoners and their families, the pope expressed sadness that too often, prison systems are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. He then called on society to be a part of the effort to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes. The Catholic community shares in the responsibility to promote policies and programming that prepare juveniles (and adult offenders) to return to their communities and positively contribute to society. To learn more about legislation related to juvenile justice, read Michigan Catholic Confer- ences latest FOCUS essay, Reforming Juvenile Justice in Michigan at www.micatholic.org/ad- vocacy/focus-essay/. The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Con- ference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. THE WORD FROM LANSING Paul A. Long Find full issues online! Visit www.upcatholic.org

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