Chaining Kids to the Ever Turning Wheel: Other Contemporary Costs of Juvenile Court Involvement

Candace Johnson
Mae C. Quinn, University of Florida Levin College of Law


In this essay, Candace Johnson and Mae Quinn respond to Tamar Birckhead's important article The New Peonage, based, in part, on their work and experience representing youth in St. Louis, Missouri. They concur with Professor Birckhead's conclusions about the unfortunate state of affairs in 21st century America--that we use fines, fees, and other prosecution practices to continue to unjustly punish poverty and oppressively regulate racial minorities. Such contemporary processes are far too reminiscent of historic convict leasing and Jim Crow era efforts intended to perpetuate second-class citizenship for persons of color. Johnson and Quinn add to Professor Birckhead's critique by further focusing on the plight of children of color and surfacing nonfinancial sanctions in our juvenile courts that similarly marginalize minority youth. They argue these practices--including shackling, intentional and unintentional shaming, and educational deprivation--also work to reproduce a secondary caste in communities across the country.