'Caught’ explores America’s juvenile justice system
If you know me, you know that I love a good podcast. I’ve recently discovered a new one, which I’d like to share with you.
It’s called “Caught,” and it is produced by WNYC in New York City. Hosted by Kai Wright, the nine-episode series looks at a number of young offenders caught up in America’s juvenile justice system. And it’s actually pretty compelling.
Over the past few decades, much has been made of our nation’s so-called “school-to-prison pipeline,” but “Caught” actually takes us inside that system and gives us a nuanced look at the juvenile offenders caught up in it.
The United States, as it turns out, imprisons more juveniles than any other industrialized nation. Approximately 53,000 children are incarcerated at any given time — nearly 60 percent are black or Latino. And they each have a story. While some are offered second chances or the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, others end up tangled in a web of cops, courts and jails.
The impact it has on all of them can last a lifetime, as “Caught” makes clear. Through conversation with parents, guards, counselors and judges, the series paints a pretty clear picture of a juvenile justice system that ultimately fails our children.
“Caught” was funded, in part, by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit organization committed to quality journalism about inequality. “Caught” is just one of many projects EHRP has funded, including recent partnerships with The Guardian, The American Prospect, The Nation and The New York Review of Books.
The series, which was released in March, does a pretty good job of exploring the nuanced inequities in the juvenile justice system, but also doesn’t shy away from bigger, underlying topics — like contributing factors to adolescent behavior such as mental health issues and the teenage brain, over-policing in low-income communities and the privatization of prisons.
“The sorting of innocence from irredeemable guilt starts young,” host Kai Wright stated in a press release about the show. “And more often than not, that stark divide depends on what you look like and where you live. We wanted to tell the stories about young people who are not innocent and yet due to troubling disparities or just plain luck, they face very different consequences for their choices. For millions of them, once they get caught, that’s it. They’re stuck in a system that will shape the rest of their lives.”
Poet and Yale Law School graduate Dwayne Betts, who spent nine years in prison for a crime he committed when he was 16, also contributes to the podcast. The perspective he brings is a valuable one.
In addition to the podcast itself, the staff of WNYC created a series of supplemental articles and videos for those wishing to dig deeper.
If you’re looking for a new podcast, I couldn’t recommend “Caught” any more highly.
— Originally Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, 08/02/18