At age 13, Lynell has lived through more trauma than most people experience in a lifetime, starting with the murder of his siblings when he was just 5. Yet Lynell never received the treatment he needed, partially because Louisiana lacks accessible mental health care, and partially because the systems that do exist failed him repeatedly. What he did receive was a sentence of “juvenile life” – incarceration until he’s 21 – for allegedly committing a violent crime.
While Lynell’s story may be extreme, it is not unique. Right now, we punish children for the symptoms of their trauma, rather than preventing and treating it in the first place. If we are ever going to make our city safer and our children healthier, we must shift our focus.