Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall by Susan Madden Lankford, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall

Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall

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by Susan Madden Lankford

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In the final volume of her trilogy on interlinked social issues, Susan Madden Lankford explores the troubled psyches of young people incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. The perspectives of psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and experts in the field of juvenile justice— combined with striking contributions elicited from the youths themselves—underscore the


In the final volume of her trilogy on interlinked social issues, Susan Madden Lankford explores the troubled psyches of young people incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. The perspectives of psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and experts in the field of juvenile justice— combined with striking contributions elicited from the youths themselves—underscore the social and neurobiological impacts of childhood trauma.

Born, Not Raised aims to have a dramatic impact on social policy with its powerful call to action for educators, social workers, psychologists, criminal justice and corrections professionals, as well as parents and parents-to-be. At the heart of Lankford’s work is the conviction that early education and youth development are the most effective strategies for breaking the cycle of at-risk behavior and helping our country’s youth thrive.

Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Storm - author of Blackout Girl and Leave the Light On.

"Every single adult complication can be directly traced back to a childhood trauma. "Born, Not Raised" takes the reader on a dark path that shines just enough light to hopefully alter the direction of our youth."
Dave Pelzer

“Susan Lankford’s Born, Not Raised spotlights the raw stories of children traumatized by neglect, abuse, and poverty. Working with outside professionals, Lankford exposes an overburdened juvenile justice system while offering powerful tools for change.”
Judge Irene Sullivan

“If juvenile judges could have access to the writings, photographs, and stories of the kids [Lankford] has met, juvenile court would be much more rehabilitative.”
Coach Ted Ginn

"I came out of industry; worked in a factory for about ten years where we so careful to put the pieces and parts together to create a perfect product. Upon inspection, if the pieces weren't perfect, you had to recall them. We have to do a better job of raising and educating our kids because if we don't get it right the first time, you can't recall a kid."
"The primary goal of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is to become a premier school district in the United States."
Library Journal
This book is the third in photojournalist and activist Lankford's series of books on troubled lives, following Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time and downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless. She embedded herself in a California youth detention facility for a year and gathered this compilation of recorded conversations with young teens incarcerated there, photographs of their environment, and drawings and writings in their original, unpolished script. In various chapters, these teens discuss the roots of their behavior, reflect on their present condition, and share their outlook on the future, which includes strains of hope and promise. Lankford, along with practicing psychiatrists, the facility's caretaking staff, and her college-age daughter, provides commentary on the teens' stories. The book concludes with ideas for solutions to the problems that transcend the institutional setting, such as parenting education, specific programs and services, and other educational initiatives that can better help juvenile offenders. VERDICT More policy-oriented than academic in tone, this book is recommended for specialized juvenile justice collections and libraries holding the other two volumes in the series. Though government austerity is in vogue, this book is a powerful reminder of the social costs of neglecting the specific needs of at-risk youth.—Antoinette Brinkman, Evansville, IN

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Humane Exposures Publishing, LLC
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ISBN: 978-0-9792366-3-1

Chapter One

Getting In Not That Easy

We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. —Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

When I decided to tackle the next portion of my criminal justice study and request access to Juvenile Hall, I first met with Judge James R. Milliken, the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, to get my bearings. I had met Judge Milliken earlier, before I ever entered Las Colinas Jail, the women's detention facility that was the foundation of my book about women doing time. He was then serving on the Superior Court and explained what permissions I would need to enter that jail; he now told me that to enter Juvenile Hall I would need to go through the Department of Probation. The County of San Diego Sheriff controls entry to adult detention facilities such as Las Colinas; the Chief of Probation controls entry to Juvenile Hall facilities.

Henry Shankman, the Probation Officer for youths-at-risk in Oceanside, a suburb of San Diego and one of the toughest jurisdictions for delinquency issues, was my first stop. Our meeting was short and sweet.

Shankman summed up the conditions that lead young people into Juvenile Hall. "You're talking child abuse, you're talking detox babies, you're talking homes that look like they've been run over by a car and the family's still living there," he said. "Homelessness, problems in school, foster care, a lot of kids not in foster care who should be, kids getting into shoplifting, sex play that gets out of hand, wanting to steal cars—all contribute to what keeps us busy in Probation."

My next stop was a meeting with Al Crogan, Chief of the San Diego Department of Probation. Crogan provided his own list of the most common reasons that youths end up in the criminal justice system:

1. Leaderless family

2. Expulsion from school or truancy

3. Substance abuse (not experimentation)

4. Theft

5. Runaway status

Crogan agreed to my request to talk to these youths and ask what route they took to get where they are. But I also needed approval from Frank Bardsley, the County Public Defender. During our meeting, I learned a great deal from Bardsley, especially about gangs, guns, and drugs and their relationship to violent juvenile crime.

Bardsley: If a juvenile is charged with a serious crime and tried as an adult, he's no longer Johnny J. All those protections fall away. In the juvenile court, everything remains in a pretty closed setting with inaccessible records.

When you see some 13- or 14-year-old sitting on a telephone book in the courtroom because he's so small, unable to comprehend what's going on, being judged by a panel of 50-year-olds, it's real dramatic ...

Susan: Jim Milliken said to me that the only hope is with the youths. Do you agree?

Bardsley: I never met a 14-year-old and said you can throw this kid away at this age with no hope. What is the decision-making ability of any teenager? We just can't say that at age 14 or 15 you're finished for all your life—70 years. You'll die in prison. I wonder if people really understand. My message is that I don't think the answer lies in the courts at all. The courts are a necessary evil. Once the kids get into the courts, we've lost them.

The courts begin and end with Juvenile Court, and if that's not done effectively we'll end up with more and more people in more and more prisons.

Susan: How much youth crime comes from the gang element?

Bardsley: A lot of it, but gangs aren't as important in my view as guns and drugs. Getting into social groups has gone on for decades. When I was growing up in the Midwest in the '40s and '50s—you'll understand this—kids in Iowa who didn't have anything better to do got together in gangs, but they didn't have guns and drugs. They could effect a punch in the nose but not a blow to the brain. If we could get guns out of society, people would be a lot less concerned about gangs.

We have enough handguns in this country to arm everyone two or three times over.

For drugs, you need money. It's not so much they blow their brains out—they do that, too—but we're talking big money, and guns in the hands of kids who've seen 200,000 homicides on TV by the time they're 12 years old, who have no concept of what they're doing or what it all means.

I worked for the public defender's office in L.A. for almost 20 years, and a good part of that time I was trying nothing but murder cases. When I started supervising the downtown felony lawyers, I read every homicide case in the central district of L.A. and assigned the lawyers. I couldn't drive anyplace from downtown L.A. to the ocean without pointing out crime scenes to my wife—a homicide occurred on that corner, that alley is all guns. People are dying in that community all over the place because of the guns.

Susan: What percentage of the crime was gang-related homicide?

Bardsley: I think most of those kids are in some sort of loose association with a gang. Was it a homicide because of a gang, or did the person who committed a homicide just happen to be in a gang? To grow up in Watts, Compton, Southeast L.A., or the equivalent areas in San Diego and not be in a gang is tantamount to riding around with a death sentence. All the kids are in gangs. They almost have to be.

Bardsley gave me an overview of how the juvenile justice system functions. He surprised me with his optimism. He said that the book I planned to create, as long as each youth remained unidentified, could be a hopeful tool to help families comprehend the gravity of the situation faced by our young people today. He even suggested, passionately, that I go into the courtroom during sentencing to photograph a young teen from the back, to reveal through body language that the child was in shock and had no comprehension of the crime he'd committed.

He said Bill Boyland and Beth Shoesmith—public defenders who worked directly with the youths, managing their care in the hands of probation—could shed more light on the situation of these kids.

I met with Bill Boyland for lunch. Just as Bardsley had suggested, he was open, caring, and very willing to share his knowledge. He also seemed saddened, even desperate, that things were getting worse, not better.

When his boss Frank Bardsley sent him to work in the juvenile system, he said, "We'd both been practicing criminal law all our lives and we both know that people in the adult system today were in the delinquency system yesterday and the dependency system the day before that. Now our job is to straighten them out as dependents and as delinquents, so we can stop this thing."

I soon learned the difference between dependency court and delinquency court. Dependency court removes children from their families and places them into foster care or with another relative. Delinquency court determines placement for youths who have broken the law.

Susan: You accepted that job.

Boyland: It's called realistic idealism. It's a peculiar thing. We work with the dependency system and the delinquency system. We're the only ones who see it close up and understand its progression. Other people see it in pieces.

Boyland further described the two different aspects of the criminal justice system for children and teens. Delinquent youths are those who have committed a crime and are in the hands of probation—sometimes probation while living at home, sometimes more serious levels of incarceration. Dependent youths are in the hands of social services, and are typically placed into foster care or with a relative.

Boyland: I understand the criminal justice system and carry either the baggage or the badge of having been a judge and then a mayor. The cases are so stressful that the stress saps the strength of people who work with these kids. Especially women. They worry all night about their cases. They don't sleep. They get autoimmune diseases and become disabled. Women are drawn to this work because the;re's a whole lot of mothering to do. You're dealing with little kids. Even if they're charged with using machine guns to kill other kids, they're still little kids.

Susan: I can't get a nice tidy picture ... The child has a gun, his mother is on drugs, his father is gone ... The whole thing spins out of control and accelerates down a hill without brakes ...

Boyland: You just passed the humanity test, my friend. If you didn't come out of there feeling sick, then we wouldn't be having this conversation. I couldn't talk to you. You wouldn't understand. You look a little shell-shocked.

I'll tell you my story. I grew up in the worst part of Detroit, and our gang—12-year-olds—was switching from BB guns to .22s. Then my parents moved to Akron. We lived in a not-very-nice part of town. I was walking to school on my first day and a kid came up beside me, put a gun to my head, and explained he wasn't going to kill me this time because I was new in the neighborhood but if he ever caught me on that side of the street again, I'd be dead.

... And so I fled. I was lucky enough to find my way to a house under a freeway overpass owned by the General Tire Company and used for inner-city kids. That's what saved me. So what do you want to talk about?

Susan: Juvenile Hall is like a holding tank?

Boyland: Yes, it's a place of initial confinement. It's called detention. Kids are arrested or detained because the act they committed is too serious for dependency. Juvenile Hall is under Probation. It's the delinquency side of the court. The dependency side is social services.

You won't find social services in Juvenile Hall unless it's for special cases. So when you think delinquency think Probation and when you think dependency think the Department of Social Services.

When an adult goes to jail, that adult is in the custody of the Sheriff. That's jail. Prison, on the other hand, is a place of punishment and confinement run by state agents called the Department of Corrections. They are absolutely different things.

With kids, it's almost the same as adults. They're held in a detention center—Juvenile Hall, the equivalent of jail for adults—until the legal proceedings are over. Based on the sophistication of the crime, the youth is either remanded to the Hall for a couple of months or sent to a longer-term facility by the probation department. Therefore—again like jail for adults—the Hall is both a place of pretrial confinement and a place of punishment, for shorter stays.

We also have boot-camp facilities—mostly for younger juvenile boys—located in Campo.

When a judge declares a child a ward of the court—a special legal status in our society—the court interferes with what would normally be parental rights over that child. The court becomes like the child's parent. However, the way it is today, when the judge places a child on probation but allows him to live at home or with a relative, Johnny walks out of the building and already knows that the probation officer won't come around. "Hey, it's cool, man, I'm back on the streets, let's go do whatever."

Susan: So the next time they come in, it's with a different attitude?

Boyland: Each time it's a little worse. Each time, they've learned a little more about how to avoid the system. This is offensive to me as a lawyer because I believe in the rule of law that says dependent children and delinquent children should receive services.

"Services" is a real important word in this business. Johnny, the delinquent, and Tommy, the dependent child, have been taken over by the court. Their parents have been found unable or unfit to raise them, so the court, the social-service delivery system, probation, and the Department of Social Services are supposed to give those children the services that they need. For the dependent child, it may mean finding him a new home.

I'll play judge with you for a minute. The worst service you can get as a judge is Juvenile Court. Judges play politics in the judicial community. The top dog is the administrative dog, the presiding judge, who decides which judges go to which service—criminal, probate, civil, family law, juvenile law. The real prestige is to be appointed downtown and handle the most prestigious work, civil suits. To handle money. It's hard to attract judges to Juvenile Court.

It's equally hard to attract attorneys. A deputy district attorney sees Juvenile Court as purgatory. You want to be downtown, doing the real felonies, getting your name in the paper. Thank god there are some lawyers who want to do this work, who really believe they can make a difference. Try to get a kid on a good life path instead of a bad life path.

The juvenile delinquent system is a deprivation of a child's liberty to become a decent adult. It's our job as defense lawyers to pull the child out of the system. Sometimes making a difference means getting the child the right kind of services so that the psychological problem can be solved and the educational problem solved, because 40 percent of these children have severe educational issues. The problem is, it's expensive to fix kids. Society plays great lip service to, "These are our children, they're the hope of tomorrow, they're the next generation," but we don't spend any money to accomplish it. As lawyers, we see them using the cheapest solutions and sending the kids to boot camps because it's an easy and inexpensive way to house a child for a set period of time. It's the cheapest thing the county can do with a child.

The game's getting tighter. I've been doing this for six years now. Two things are happening at the same time. One is that juvenile misconduct is increasing due to forces we all understand—guns and drugs. At the same time, the amount of money being spent on kids is being reduced. So that means more kids will commit more serious acts and end up in nonrehabilitative confinement.

The adult system stresses punishment—you did wrong and we've got to punish you to teach you a lesson and protect the community. We've got to put a wall around you so you won't get out and rape Mrs. Jones.

The child's system, the delinquency system, is supposed to stress rehabilitation of the child, not punishment. But we aren't giving treatment to Johnny—who committed a sex offense—for sexually acting out. We'll confine him, but we won't rehabilitate him, and he'll come out either a child molester or a rapist.

The judge is in a box because the county doesn't have enough money to pay for expensive treatment for this child. We're loading everything on the next generation. They'll have to pay the debts that we ran up, doing things the dumb way, not engaging in preventative action.

This interview took place a number of years ago. This past year, San Diego witnessed what Boyland predicted can happen when John Albert Gardner III confessed to the rape and murder of two teenage girls and the assault of other teens who were lucky enough to escape. Convicted a decade earlier, at age 20, of assaulting a 13-year-old neighbor, he served time then, but received no treatment.

Communities were outraged as the recent story unfolded and the horror of the harsh reality sank in. Parents panicked and were terrified to let their daughters walk unescorted in broad daylight. The media obsessed on these sensational crimes until the passage of Chelsea's Law, which provides for a life-withoutparole sentence for the worst child molesters, but also offers ongoing treatment for paroled sex offenders deemed eligible for rehabilitation.

Will sufficient funds be available for rehabilitation? In the realm of juvenile justice, the Probation Department simply has no money to initiate the positive programs that Mack Jenkins, the current and brilliant Chief Probation Officer, knows only too well would work to educate at-risk youths and halt criminal behavior early in life through training, remediation, and literacy.

As I worked my way toward access to Juvenile Hall, I began to get a real sense of the problems confronting the attorneys as well as the judges in the overtaxed system of juvenile justice. By this time, my daughter Polly had decided to join me in the project, and we were able to schedule a meeting with the director of Juvenile Hall to discuss our goals.


Excerpted from BORN, NOT RAISED by SUSAN MADDEN LANKFORD Copyright © 2012 by HUMAN EXPOSURES PUBLISHING, LLC. Excerpted by permission of HUMANE EXPOSURES PUBLISHING, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Susan Madden Lankford earned a B.S. in medical technology from the University of Nebraska, did graduate work in photography, and attended workshops with photographic masters such as Ansel Adams, Richard Misrach, and Ruth Bernhard. After years as a successful professional photographer, Lankford became deeply aware of America’s disenfranchised and began focusing her energy and her cameras on their lives and challenges. Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time was the first in her trilogy of award-winning books, followed by downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless and Born, Not Raised. Lankford also executive-produced the film It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing, a penetrating look at a central crisis in the American criminal justice system, stressing the social and economic value of remediation.

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