Dubious Arrests, Damaged Lives. How shelters criminalize hundreds of children

May 18, 2017

The offenses begin innocently enough.

Kids watching a movie smear cake frosting on each other. A Monopoly game is overturned. A distraught child hurls whatever is within reach — a tissue box, a shoe, a blanket, dominoes, a cell phone.

In California’s shelters for abused and neglected children, these youthful outbursts can become crimes. The instigators of the cake fight are arrested and accused of inciting a mob. A girl who grabbed her stuffed bear and blanket before flinging books is taken into custody for assault. Another girl is booked at juvenile hall for battery after hitting someone with a pack of hot dog buns during a tussle.

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