By chance I spent a number of my early years working with kids: camp counselor in the U.S., supervisor as a teen exchange student in a community center in the (poor) East End of London (Bethnal Green), and finally several evenings a week at the Manhattanville Community Center (no longer in existence) in lower West Harlem while a student at Union Theological Seminary.

I am appalled and disheartened by what I read of one of our horrendous NY juvenile detention centers (below). My own experience in Britain had showed me that their attitudes towards poor kids were very different from ours in the U.S. At the British center for kids, the director and his wife lived in the center. They were from the community and the community was most supportive of the center’s activities. In the U.S. most of our minority kids with problems are all too often brutalized, cut off from their families (mainly in NYC),  and sent far upstate where it is too expensive for families to visit.

In Britain the aim was to help kids get launched in life. Our institutions rather brutalized them and made them unfit to become adults. Racism plays a large role in our mistreatment of troubled kids. Too often staff are not professionals — just people needing a good paying job and they can be brutal with their charges — beating them up to the point of breaking bones and knocking out teeth. This is true of some of our private ones as well as public. Decent people can’t stand what they see and generally leave these institutions if they can afford to.

Read and weep if you care for kids.

Tryon Residential Center: A Look Inside the Infamous State Juvenile Prison (New York Magazine)

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent [blind copies]

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