Conversations about the juvenile justice system and the way it devastates Black and Brown children too often omit the perspectives of those most impacted. WNYC Studios provided space for several of these kids to speak their truth in “Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice,” a new podcast that debuted today (March 12).
Journalist and podcast host Kai Wright* told Colorlines that the podcast grew out of the Radio Rookies program, which teaches New York teenagers to produce stories about their lives. Program participants found several of the subjects, featured under pseudonyms in “Caught,” via earlier projects. Most of the profiled teenagers are children of color who survived incarceration in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.
“In talking about mass incarceration and police violence, we so often focus on the end of the story—when there is, frankly, a dead body, or some other horrific climax to what this system does to Black and Brown bodies,” Wright explained. “That is at the exclusion of all of the quotidian awfulness that takes place leading up to those peaks. We have to go way back to the beginning and talk about the day to day ways in which we set up young people, and particularly young people of the color, to end up inside of a punitive criminal justice system.”
Wright added that the nine episodes of “Caught,” which debut every two to three days throughout March, connect its subjects’ individual paths to broader juvenile justice trends. One episode highlights how girls are more likely than boys to be charged with “status offenses,” or violations like missing curfew or school that only apply to children. Another focuses on a $400 million industry of wilderness and other remediation programs in Utah, which predominantly serve White children whose parents can pay for them. Wright said that all of these stories illustrate how White supremacist legal structures fail all children.
“We have such limited thinking about how to help people of any sort, but certainly young people who do harm to themselves or others, because we built the whole system around punishing and confining Black bodies,” he said.
Listen to the first episode of “Caught” below, and find future episodes via WNYCStudios.org.
*Kai Wright previously served as the editorial director of Colorlines.