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Silly System… Handcuffs Are Not For Kids!


By Jason “J.G.” Gamble

On June 8th 2018 Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson defended the handcuffing of and detainment of 10 year old Michael Thomas, JR. Superintendent Johnson is a black man and yes, young Michael Thomas is also black. For some this is all the information necessary to dismiss race as a factor in the treatment of youth. After the media attention the police released a statement that there was a suspect age 10 to 12 passing out a gun. Though it is nearly impossible to tell the age of a youth by looking and the apparently their only description was young, black and male they felt as though that was enough data to humiliate and detain a child. Cell phone footage captured showed several officers cuffing Michael Thomas, JR. then throwing the young man on the hood of a car.

What type of country allows this to be a standard for treatment of a minor. This young man had to suffer the indignity of being put in handcuffs in front of his grandmother’s home despite the fact the boy’s uncle and other witnesses confronted cops at the scene demanding an explanation for why his nephew was treated with such blatant disregard for his humanity. His grandmother was also on the scene and she actually lifted the boy’s shirt to show police officers he had no gun. Still the officers kept the young man in handcuffs for an additional 15 minutes. So one in the crowd screamed, “Let him go! He is sacred and you (police) killed his father”.

While I was not able to confirm if this is true, I can only imagine the trauma this young man had endured. I am an Army veteran and when soldiers, sailors and marines are deployed we are taught not to escalate conflicts. The fact that police officers aren’t taught this in America should be the concern of every American. Let’s honestly ask ourselves if a young white kid that was barely a hundred pounds was cuffed and surrounded by officers would there be a national outrage?

We must be honest if we want to create change. Inequality is not a myth and ignoring it won’t make it better. The recidivism rate in Chicago is 73% life time and 52% for a three year period. This means that youth and adults locked up in Chicago will have a 52% chance of reentering the system in the next 3 years and nearly 3 out of 4 will end up back in prison at some point in their life. Chicago prisons and youth correctional facilities have proven to be a gateway to a lifetime of crime. As a means of survival, many youths are forced to join gangs and many of our youths are incarcerated for many years without an actual conviction. Many of the youth incarcerated are held longer only because they cannot afford bail.

While many fail to see the correlation. Consider that there are only 3 types of interactions with police; Conversations, Detainment and Arrest. This young man was moments away from arrest even with the intervention of adults the police were still harassing him. Simply put, one arrest can ruin a life. If he was charged and even if the judge grants bail it is normally too high for poor families to pay. It also exposes a child that should be attending school to gangs and violence while incarcerated. Even if he is found innocent the missed time as school will leave him behind on his grads. What I want everyone to understand is that there is always a domino effect of trauma and lose. Handcuffing a 10 year old devalues this boy’s life before he can grow. It sends a message that he does not matter. Search your heart and ask yourself. Is this the America I want?

Life is precious and to devalue one life is to devalue us all. We are in a country where immigrant children are taken from their parents, kids programs are taken away and kids are handcuffed while top police officers call this act a procedure. If it takes 4 or more officers and handcuffs to control a 10 year old then I would like to know what their training looks like. This country’s standards are sinking lower and while my great grandparents and great great grandparents experienced having to run from racist, sharecroppers and police I was lucky enough to be born in this 50 year experiment called integration. My biggest fear is that my kids will wake up and experience what my elders had to endure. If this is progress in Trump’s America then we need to rethink our values. It takes more character to build a nation than it does to divide us. The youth are the life’s blood of this nation. America shows its true character in how we treat our next generation. I will leave you with this question. If you support a nonviolent minor being put in handcuffs then what is the message being sent?

Think about it…

Remember we are all in the same struggle. 1 struggle, 1 people, 1 world, 1Luv.

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