William Lynch is a senior political science & theology double major at Creighton. He is a summer intern at Voices for Children in Nebraska, focused on juvenile justice policy.
“If I have learned nothing else as a Creighton student, it is that I should live my life “for and with others.” It is the motto all Creighton students are invited to incorporate into their work lives. I have taken it to mean that I should spend my time doing what I can for my community and my neighbor. In searching for a way to do this, I found Voices for Children in Nebraska. Its goal of fighting for children’s interests and making sure kids have all of the resources they need to become successful adults immediately resonated with me. How better could I help my community than by fighting for those who do not yet have a voice in the system?
I applied to be an intern working mostly with juvenile justice issues. I was interested in finding how the children in Nebraska are being treated by the law. I came in for a friendly interview and said I wanted to learn the layout of the field and do what I could to advocate for those with no voice. Luckily, Voices for Children decided I had skills that could help.
In just my first week here, I have been amazed at how much there is to learn. The first area I’ve looked at is juvenile incarceration. Most shockingly, I have learned that the two Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers in the state have received over $17 million to deal with just 4% of the youth in the justice system in 2010. Compare this to the $1.5 million allocated for counties to fund community-based services for juveniles in the justice system. These community programs are as effective as incarceration, excepting the high-risk offenders. I think it would be better to rehabilitate offenders in the community they owe their debt to, rather than removing them from it altogether.
If the YRTCs held only high-risk offenders, then a good amount of the $17 million would be justified. However, 73% of the juveniles in the YRTCs did not commit violent crimes. Incarcerating low-risk children is unnecessary as it is fiscally wasteful.
I am only just beginning my internship. However, I know that working with Voices for Children is one of the best ways to bring about positive, needed change in Nebraska’s juvenile justice system.”