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Look at Reasons Kids Are Transferred to Jail

June 29, 2003

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors' decision to look for alternative housing for the dozens of youths in the Men's Central Jail is a welcome first step (June 25). The board should also question how the youths end up there. Some are transferred from Juvenile Hall for talking back in class and other nonviolent behavior. One youth threw a roll of toilet paper at his teacher and then apologized. Many others had been in fights, but from the files we reviewed, it's not apparent they are any more dangerous than other youths in Juvenile Hall.

Misbehavior like this must be addressed, but it's no reason to send a teenager to a jail for adults. Nearly all of these youths are awaiting trial. Some will ultimately be found innocent or have their cases dismissed. All will spend a year or more in extraordinarily harsh conditions unless the board acts.

Michael Bochenek

Counsel, Children's Rights

Division, Human Rights

Watch, New York City

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