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Juvenile Justice Policy Paper

Juvenile Justice Policy Paper

Introduction

At one time, it was a policy to remove Native American children from their homes and place them in residential schools. It was a way through which the government sought to solve what was seen as a Native American problem. However, for most of the Native American children who were forcefully taken to the residential schools, it is a time that is widely remembered as a period of sacrilege of culture and mistreatment (Churchill, 2005, p. 14). Native Americans suffered incalculably because of this Indian policy, which was largely shaped by paternalism, as it was by the voracity of the white people. However, the Native Americans were not just passive victims of these policies. Their reactions to the federal policies, actions of the White Americans’, and the ultimate changes in the politics, economy and society of the 20th century varied immensely and were also decisive (Lomawaima & McCarty, 2006, p. 27). It is immensely important to understand the process that the policy of taking Native American children from their homes to residential schools. Therefore, this paper will outline and discuss the past and present of the juvenile justice policy in relation to the policy of removing Native American children from their homes and placing them in residential schools. The paper will also delve into the historical justifications of the policy and respond to some questions relating to the issue of Serious, Violent Juveniles (SVJs).

Past and Present Juvenile Justice Policy

The Native American residential schools policy and system started in 1879 through the efforts of an army officer known as Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt. He established the Carlisle Indian School, an institution whose focus was to assimilate the Native American children into the white society and culture. The policy operated with the motto, “Kill the Indian, save the man” (Churchill, 2005, p. 29). However, as it later emerged, in reality, the policy did not focus on the assimilation as it did on obliteration. More boarding schools were set-up for the Native American children, and they were situated far away from the reservations to eliminate any contact between the children and their friends and families (Churchill, 2005, p. 29). In addition, the parents could hardly visit their children, who spent lengthy periods of time in the residential schools, including summer. The students’ uniforms reminded military uniforms, and the children had to march. Moreover, there existed the abolition on the use of native language or practice of native religion, and the students had to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and Bible verses (Churchill, 2005, p. 37). The administrators and teachers required the children to spy on each other, and the teachings included depicting the Native Americans’ way of life as savage and inferior to the White’s culture. The teachings also despised the Native Indians who retained their cultural beliefs and practices and illustrated them as retrograde, injudicious, and filthy. The students were forbidden from speaking about their suffering, and they were threatened by their instructors, which led to the majority of the students committing suicide or dying due to neglect and illnesses. Most survivors resulted in alcoholism as a way of dealing with the painful memories while others abused and neglected their families. The policy focused on assimilating the Native Americans into the mainstream culture by the use of children as they would pose less resistance and had less attachment to their culture compared to the adults.

In 1926, there was a report from a survey commissioned by the Department of Interior, and it assessed the overall conditions of the Native American and the policies and programs that affected them. The study’s report, the Meriam Report, discussed various issues.  The authors made various recommendations to the federal government regarding the aspect of education of the Native American children. They requested the government to abolish the uniform approach to studying in the Native American schools, which only taught the European-American culture and values. They also proposed that young children should be taught in schools that are closer to their homes and to have older children attend non-reservation schools, which would improve their level of learning. In addition, they suggested that the Indian Service, which was later renamed to Bureau of Indian Affairs, should have been given the responsibility to provide the Native Americans with the education and skills that they required in order to adapt in both their native communities and the US society. However, despite this report, the number o residential schools for the Native Indians continued to increase, and they reached their peak in the 1970s. As a result of immense pressure and complaints about these schools from pan-Indian activists and tribal communities, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act was passed in 1975. It emphasized on the decentralization of students from boarding schools into the community schools.

In 1978, there was the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act as a federal law, and it responded to the high number of children who were forcefully removed from their homes into the boarding schools by both public and private agencies. The Act aimed at protecting the best interests of the Native American children and promoting the security and stability of the Native American families and tribes. The Act sets guidelines on federal requirements that should be applied in the state child custody proceedings that involve the Native American children who are members of or possess eligibility to be members of a federally recognized tribe. It strengthened the native courts’ control over the Native American child custody proceedings.  As a result of the activism and passage of different laws, the residential schools for the Native Americans began closing, and today, only a few off-reservation residential schools still operate, and their funding has declined.

Historical Justification of This Policy

When the English-speaking Europeans launched their North American invasion, they perceived the Native tribes of this area as vicious and desolate. These English-speaking Europeans viewed themselves as superior to the Native Americans and were often astounded when they realized that most Native Americans loathed being like them. During the 19th and much of the 20th century, the official education policies implemented in relation to the Native Americans focused on assimilating them to the English-speaking invaders’ culture. The assimilation sought to have the native people speak English and preferably forget their native language; converse to Christianity, and preferably Protestantism; disown their style of clothing and adopt the American style of clothes; wear their hair in the American style; live in the “modern-style” houses; and work in a cash-based economic system, preferably on the bottom levels of the economic scale. Consequently, the government educators had the opinion that the assimilation of the natives into the new culture would work best if they focused on their children. They believed that if the children could be removed from their homes, it would eliminate the savageness of the influences of their traditional religions, language, and community. As a result, they would have accomplished their assimilation goal, and this idea formed the philosophical and pedagogical base of the policy to remove Native American children from their homes into new residential schools (Ojibwa, 2013).

The implementation process began when the government started to realize the Indian Removal Act. The act focused on the negotiating with the Native Americans living to the East of the Mississippi to give up their land in exchange for land to the West of the Mississippi (Ismaili, 2011, p. 248). Those who chose to remain would become members of their home states. As the negotiations continued, the ruling government felt the need to assimilate the Native Indians into the American culture, and the focus was on the use of education policies. Consequently, the Native American children were forcefully removed from their homes into boarding schools, where they were forced to adhere to the foreign practices and forbidden from practicing their culture. For example, the Dawes Act offered an opportunity for the Native Americans who adopted the “civilized” culture to receive the US citizenship. Regarding the forced removal of children from their homes, the government would get into homes to get all children from ages as young as three years and take them to the residential schools, where they would spend years without communicating or visiting their families.

Issue of Serious, Violent Juveniles

The issue of serious and violent juveniles is a significant problem. Their offences impact significantly on their communities and the juvenile and criminal justice system (Ismaili, 2011, p. 216). It is an issue that has raised a significant interest in the scientific community. Scholars and researchers have channeled their time and energies towards identifying the characteristics of serious violent juveniles, as well as the relationship to different ethnicities. The prosecution of juvenile Native Americans can be done by the federal courts as the tribal courts cannot sentence any individual convicted of a serious offense for more than one year in jail or fine them more than five thousand dollars as per the Indian Civil Rights Act. However, the area of federal and tribal criminal justice systems still requires to be studied in depth (OJJDP, n.d.).

Arguments for Removing Children

There are arguments on the existence of vulnerability and trauma among the Native American children due to the years of historical injustices including the forceful removal and relocation to residential schools. The Native American youth face high victimization and double the rate of abuse and neglect compared to white children (Indian Law & Order Commission (U.S.) & Eid, 2013, p. 151). After the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), the aim was to make sure that the Indian children were safe and ensure that they received out-of-home care when they needed (Indian Law & Order Commission (U.S.) & Eid, 2013, p. 155). It is believed that there is an influence of the removal of Native American children from their homes on the modern Native American youths. Even though times have changed and they have gained citizenship, these people still face hardships. When there is a situation that is triggered by a tribal jurisdiction, a corresponding U.S. Attorney’s Office decides whether to proceed against the Native Youth (Indian Law & Order Commission (U.S.) & Eid, 2013, p. 155).

Proposals that Are Being Made about Serious, Violent Juveniles

The current Native American justice system has various flaws that the federal government has made numerous attempts to solve over the years without too much success. For example, the tribal courts cannot try non-Native Americans, which affects the way that the Native American youths are treated in the judicial system. The Native American community has to deal with a patchwork of inconsistent law enforcement, court system, and correctional system. There are both environmental and cultural factors that affect these problems. Existing proposals relate to getting the tribal courts have more influence on the youths and the judicial system. It is also important to make sure that there are alignments on the judicial system, which will promote equality on the way that youths from different ethnic backgrounds are treated.

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Advancement of Policy-Making Steps Proposals

The policy-making process involves five steps that include problem identification, agenda setting, policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy evaluation (Marion & Oliver, 2012, p. 74). The problem identification step involves the recognition of the existing problem and moving it from just a private issue into a public problem. For instance, the fact that it has been identified that serious and violent Native American juveniles face injustices in the criminal and justice system; it means that the problem has been identified. However, it requires transformation into the public issue, which will initialize the policy-making process. The problem has been identified among the small population of the Native Americans, and it needs to be recognized as a problem affecting the entire American population. Upon recognition, it will be presented to the law-makers who will debate and decide how it should be addressed.

Agenda setting is the second step, and it involves the decision makers selecting issues that ought to be prioritized. During the prioritization stage, the urgency of the matter dictates how soon it should be sorted (Marion & Oliver, 2012, p. 75). The issue affecting the native juvenile youth can be given priority because it is an issue that influences crime and safety of people. Once the agenda setting occurs, policy formulation follows. It relates to the process through which formal policies are suggested and finally created (Marion & Oliver, 2012, p. 79). Upon the creation of the policies, the stage that follows is the implementation, and in the current case, it would involve giving the tribal courts more influence in the federal justice system to make sure that the Native American youths do not face harsher sentences than their non-Native American peers. During the implementation process, the policy requires evaluation to make sure that the intended mission is achieved. After implementation, the policy evaluation continues in order to assess the process and its impact. The process evaluation seeks to assess whether the people mandated with the implementation process meet the required goals, and the impact evaluations assesses the output of the policy (Marion & Oliver, 2012, p. 79).

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