Larissa Salazar grew up in Wyoming, and when she was in eighth grade, she got in a fight on a school bus. That snowballed into her spending 16 months in a state juvenile facility.
Reporter Tennessee Watson follows Larissa’s experience in the juvenile justice system in Wyoming, which locks up kids at one of the highest rates in the nation. Larissa’s mom says that instead of helping her daughter, the system made things worse.
Then Watson explores why Wyoming is clinging to its “get tough” approach to juvenile justice, even as many other states are moving away from punishing kids – especially for low-level or nonviolent offenses. Research shows that locking kids up doesn’t change their behavior and often creates a new set of problems.
We end with Watson visiting South Dakota, a state that in the past few years has changed how it deals with kids who get in trouble. South Dakota’s juvenile justice system recognizes that kids who are incarcerated are more likely to get in trouble again, whereas kids who are held accountable and receive support close to home are not.
This show originally aired March 20, 2021.