Austin’s Young Leaders Must Stand Up for Incarcerated Children
The 21st Annual Austin Under 40 Awards ceremony will take place downtown on Saturday, May 18.Nominees (including the four of us) will gather with other community leaders at a black-tie dinner hosted by Young Women’s Alliance and the Young Men’s Business League to celebrate Austin’s emerging professionals and their mentors. We are deeply honored by this recognition and proud of the work we and our colleagues do every day to end the incarceration of children.
That night, more than 54,000 children will go to sleep in youth prisons or other out-of-home confinement and 15,000 immigrant children will go to bed in our country’s for-profit immigration detention centers. Too often, it is black and brown children who are funneled into these systems through the school-to-prison pipeline, draconian immigration laws, and other unjust systems, perpetuating racial injustice in select communities. Less than 25% of these children have committed any violent crime, yet our country continues to lock them in cages, remove them from their parents and subject them to abuse and neglect by their correctional “caretakers.”
In different ways, each of us works to reform this tragic state of affairs. When we are honored publicly by our Austin community, we will call on our fellow honorees and the people of Austin to stand with us in our belief that the status quo confinement of children is unacceptable.
Thankfully, this country is at a crossroads where we can end the failed policies that have led to the over-incarceration of generations of children.
We are encouraged every day by the outrage we see on the faces of our neighbors, our co-workers and in the media when these injustices continue to happen. We are thrilled to see so many of our generation work every day to eradicate unjust policies and, now, recognized so publicly for our contributions in this area.
When Austin’s young leaders come together, we will ask every one of them to join this fight. It doesn’t take a social work degree or a law license to be a voice for justice. Leaders in every business can engage policymakers in Austin and Washington and tell them to end child incarceration. All of us can support grassroots initiatives working to protect the most vulnerable among us. Without action, all of the applause and plaques are meaningless.
Our generation, the Austin Under 40 leaders, can help bring justice to these children and accountability to the systems charged with their care. Our hope is that the other honorees and the groups they represent will bring their expertise and their commitment to our community to help place these children in safer, more nurturing environments — not in for-profit warehouses. The crisis of child incarceration can be solved if leaders from every industry and every walk of life work together.
The Austin Under 40 Awards have become a celebrated institution. We hope that you will allow us to share this moment of recognition with the thousands of children who tonight will sleep in cold dark cells, and we call upon each of you to help us bring those children home.
Meme Styles, Founder of Measure
Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, Owner of Lincoln Goldfinch Law, an immigration firm
Elizabeth Henneke, Founder of Lone Star Justice Alliance
Mimi Marziani, President of Texas Civil Rights Project