Broken promises, shattered lives Minnesota’s juvenile justice system is failing young people, families and victims of violence

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Star Tribune on 4/24/2022 by By LIZ SAWYER, CHRIS SERRES and MARYJO WEBSTER Photos by JERRY HOLT • Star Tribune

Every so often, Cassie Carter collapses on her teenage son’s empty bed after a long day at work and reflects on his childhood — his first day of kindergarten, the long afternoons they spent playing at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. It is how she reminds herself that, until a couple of years ago, her son Jayden was ”just a normal, big-hearted kid” adored by his siblings and cousins.

Those days now seem a distant memory. At age 12, the child who once dreamed of being a police officer fell in with a group of boys who skipped school and brandished handguns on social media. Before long, Jayden was vanishing from home for weeks at a time and roaming the streets of St. Paul — shoplifting from stores, burglarizing homes and fleeing from police in stolen cars.

Each time he was caught, Carter pleaded with law enforcement and county social workers to place her son in a locked juvenile facility with round-the-clock surveillance. Only then, she believed, would he get sustained treatment for his behavioral problems and reflect on the harm he was inflicting on his family and many victims.

But each time, he was returned to the community with little or no support services, only to resume his dangerous crime spree.

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