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Incarceration is not only answer to urban youth violence

Mothers for Justice and Equality salutes Governor Patrick’s efforts to reduce incarceration rates of juveniles in Massachusetts (“Patrick seeks fewer life terms for youths,” Page A1, Jan. 27). We believe that it takes courage to stand up against perceived norms. Our children should not bear the burden of societal failures.

America’s loss in the war on poverty has left many families dealing with the effects of economic inequality, a situation that has led to an increase in incarceration and murder rates of children in urban communities. In many cases the children are the perpetrators or victims of violence. In others, they are the survivors who are left behind to deal with the nightmares and emotional scars of losing a friend or loved one to violence. Symptoms of trauma-related stress can go undiagnosed and untreated for years before the individual commits a crime.

As mothers raising children in urban communities with a dream of equality for all God’s children, we are often left to ponder the question of what is justice to us. Mothers who lose a child to violence and mothers who lose a child to incarceration for life with no chance of parole are mutually joined by loss. We are both left behind to mourn silently and watch hopelessly as others experience a similar fate.


Incarceration is not the only answer. We must embrace restorative justice practices, invest in stabilizing our families, and rehabilitate our children. If mothers who have lost children to violence can forgive, others can too.

Monalisa Smith
Mothers for Justice and Equality