I was very excited to see the article "The failure of 'baby booking'" (Dec. 29), hoping it would address some of systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system in this state. Upon reading the article, however, I was disappointed. The systemic "failure" that is the primary concern for Michael Nakan is the failure of the system of operate in an economically efficient manner, not the more important failure of the system to properly care for, educate and protect the incarcerated youth of this city.
While no one would defend the inefficacy of the status quo in terms of processing time, the "solutions" Mr. Nakan offered, more private residential treatment facilities and electronic monitoring, are only solutions from the limited economic perspective that serves as his starting point. Commentators from the University of California Irvine's Dylan Rodriguez to filmmaker Michael Moore have noted the perverse incentives privatized corrections facilities have to provide the bare minimum for those incarcerated there, eschewing the comprehensive rehabilitation that is the only true solution to the recidivism problem that not only places (predominately black) youth in a cycle of poverty but also assures even more public expenditure on the criminal justice system.
Even Mr. Nakan's more "benign" option of putting more kids on "the box" fails from this perspective; what difference does it make if a kid plays X-Box in baby booking or locked in their room, or for that matter whether we build new $107 million dollar prisons or renovate old ones, kids are still are not getting the positive engagement needed to be sure they don't end up back in jail. Pieces like these serve as little more than intellectual slight of hand distracting the public from the systemic poverty, institutional racism and not-so-benign neglect that is the true answer to Mr. Nakan's question "why so much violence"?