Congratulations To Hawai'i On Not Having Any Girls Locked Up In Juvie

Criminal Justice System
Congratulations To Hawai'i On Not Having Any Girls Locked Up In Juvie

This week, the Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women announced on Twitter that for the very first time in history, there are no girls incarcerated in the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility, adding "This is no fluke or accident. HYCF has been empty for weeks after years of work to replace handcuffs with healing."

Hooray! This also means that the 10-year-old girl who was arrested there last year for drawing an unflattering picture of her bully is not incarcerated, so that is a very nice victory for civil liberties.


It's not the kind of thing we would have to celebrate in a less deeply horrifying and unjust world, but we live in the United States, where that kind of thing is a big deal. The only thing the US criminal justice system loves more than locking up children in juvie is charging them as adults and locking them up in adult prisons where they can spend critical developmental years locked up with a bunch of adult criminals until they are ultimately released into a society they have almost no idea how to function in, and then locking them back up in prison when they reoffend ... which 76 percent of them do.

According to the website for the Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women, it is a "statewide feminist government agency [that] works toward equality for women and girls in the State by acting as a catalyst for positive change through advocacy, education, collaboration and program development."

In response to the news, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted "another world is possible." One might contend that not only is it possible, it is basically the rest of the world we currently live in.

Hawai'i ranks around the middle of the US in terms of its incarceration rate of 439 per 100,000 residents. Globally, however, the only countries (besides the US, which has the highest in the world) that have a higher rate are El Salvador, Cuba, Rwanda and Turkmenistan. All places with really great, extremely normal and definitely not at all terrifying criminal justice systems.

The United States also has the distinction of having the highest rate of incarcerated youth in the world, and is also really the only place in the world where children are routinely tried as adults for things other than particularly egregious homicides.

So yes, another world is very, very possible. We could have it here if we decided to help youthful offenders rather than throwing them in prisons — which, yes, are exactly what most juvenile detention facilities are. We don't actually have to live like this, and people like those working for the Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women are proving that.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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