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The population of the world is eight billion (8,000,000,000). Such a big number is hard to picture. Did you know that less than five percent (5%) of that number lives in the United States? Yet we have 25% of the world’s prison population here in America. Think about that for a minute.

Here is something else you probably never give much thought to. Everyone knows about adults locked up in America. But few even think about children being locked up. The number of youths incarcerated is staggering. Many of my prison trips into lockdown facilities have been to visit kids. I call them kids because that is what they are. In one particular place I visited, ages ranged from eight to seventeen. While there, I asked the kids gathered for the meeting, “How many of you have children?” A majority of hands went up. Kind of blows your mind, huh? There are kids having kids. We are living in some messed-up times.

The Bible says that in the last days, “children will become disobedient”. Do you think that when God inspired the writers of the Bible to say that He knew that one day it would be against the law to spank your kids? That some children would sue their parents? That parents could go to jail for whipping their kids?

I have never read one thing in the Bible about putting your children in time-out. However, there are many references in the Word that instruct us to discipline our children.

Here are some scary statistics:

  • 2.1 million teens are arrested every year.

  • 500,000 teens are sent to detention facilities every year.

  • 80,000 teens will sleep in a secured facility tonight.

  • $5 billion—what the US spends each year on juvenile corrections.

  • $2 million—amount that taxpayers save on each child who is prevented from starting a life of crime.

In some states, it costs $96,000 per year to keep a child in prison and a little over $6,000 per year to educate them. Suicide in youth detention centers is more than four times greater than in the general population. Confined youth lose daily contact with their families and lose valuable school time. They are much more likely to be tutored in crime than in math, and their mentors are more likely to be offenders than caring adults. Research confirms that most juvenile offenders sixteen and older never return to formal education. More than half of all incarcerated youth need substance abuse treatment, yet very few facilities provide those services.

In the US, there are over seven-million adults in our criminal justice system, either in prison, jail, on probation, or parole. Try and guess how many children are impacted by those seven million. We need to pray now more than ever for the youth of our country.

The picture this week is of a friend of mine reading the Bible to a young boy in a youth prison in California. Take note of the tear in the corner of his eye. A large percentage of kids that go to juvenile, end up in prison. The boy in this picture started going to juvenile when he was six years old. Today, he is sitting in a California prison with five-hundred-twenty-one years and eleven life sentences. I don’t know about you, but that breaks my heart.

How many young people locked up in our institutions are crying themselves to sleep at night? They so desperately need Jesus. He is the only chance they have of staying out once they are released. Most of them are looking for a family. That’s why many join gangs.

How about us (the Church) loving them into the family of God? Please agree to pray with me for the incarcerated youth and agree with us at HOPE CITY KC every Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. as we pray for the youth of America.

Photo by Ron Kuntz

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