Books, Crime, Family Law, Kids

Comic Book Walks Juvenile Offenders Through the Justice System

This is a truly innovative approach to helping at-risk children. This is a truly sad commentary on the state of our society. This is a great way to introduce children to the concept of having a lawyer. I can’t believe we need to explain to children why they need a lawyer. This is a tale of a comic book, and it is truly the best thing I’ve seen that is so terrible.

The ABA Journal has a fascinating feature about a four-page comic book called: I Got Arrested, Now What. It was created as a final project for the Youth Justice Board, a program run by the Center for Court Innovation in New York City. The board is comprised of public school high school students from the City.

One of the students on the board explained the need for this comic book:

“All of us came in with the mindset that we wanted to change something in New York City,” says Khaair, a senior at Francis Lewis High School in Queens who didn’t want his last name published. “I feel like the youth of New York City don’t have representation—and we really need a voice, especially for the stuff that involves us.”

And since this is New York City, the “stuff” that our youths need guidance on is what to do when they get arrested. You simply must check out this comic book…

The fact that getting arrested is something that is a reasonable possibility in the life of New York City children is deeply disturbing. I mean, it’s not “I Got Grounded, Now What,” it’s “I’ve gotten involved in the criminal justice system before I was old enough to see The Hangover without a parent. Now What?” It’s sad.

Yet it also seems totally necessary. It’s analogous to bemoaning the fact that kids are having sex or teaching them how to use condoms. The latter leads to AIDS prevention, the former leads to success on Dancing With The Stars. Similarly here, if children are going to be in the court system, they might as well know what the hell they’re supposed to be doing.

And one of the things they are supposed to be doing is keeping their mouths shut around everybody except their lawyer. You can see the full comic here. But I wanted to pull out a couple of panels that explain the lawyer’s role in this process:

I mean, most people have to go to law school to fully internalize why you need to be “cautious” when dealing with people in the system who are not your lawyer. Now, high schoolers are trying to teach that lesson to their even younger peers.

They’re even trying to teach kids about the importance of displaying the proper attitude in court:

You know what’s really messed up/one of the best parts about this little story? At no point is the character’s innocence ever really argued. It’s assumed that the kid was arrested for valid reasons, and the judge does find the main character guilty. There’s no Disney story about the plight of the wrongly accused here. The kid did it (they never explain what he did but it seems like possession), got busted, got convicted, and the only “upside” was that he avoided having to go “upstate” to juvie. The comic is about navigating the system and mitigating the consequences.

And that’s a very important lesson, I suppose. Come to think of it, there should probably be more emphasis on navigating the criminal justice system in schools. Dealing with the system should probably at least be on a par with all of the programs designed to keep kids out of the system in the first place.

But, dear Lord, it makes one long for the days when the only things city kids had to worry about were crackheads and subway vigilantes. After reading this comic, I think that next year the Youth Justice Board should turn Miranda rights into a nursery rhyme, so toddlers can mumble “I want my phone call.”

Comic Book By Teens Gets to the Basics: ‘I Got Arrested—Now What?’ [ABA Journal]

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