The Real Resolution: Jail Won’t Heal Brooklyn Brawl Teens

March 21, 2015  |  

Last week a Youtube video of teen girls went viral as the teens brutally punched and kicked one classmate in a Brooklyn, New York McDonald’s while a large crowd of bystanders watched and cheered. As of this week, all teens have been arrested… but is jail the right place for them? We spoke with Dr. Sonia Banks, a practicing clinical psychologist for over 12 years, on the best next steps for real reform, healing and prevention to take place. Banks says jail is not the answer – no matter how brutal they have been.

If you have yet to see the video, below you may witness the vicious attack dished out by what police have found to be: 15-year-old Tasheema Beet; 17-year-old Tilani Marshall; 16-year-old Mercedes Wilkinson; 15-year-old Dahvina Gonzalez; 14-year-old juvenile yet to be named; and ringleader, 16, Aniah Ferguson allegedly seen stomping the victim’s head.


Ferguson reportedly beat the victim, 15-year-old Ariana Taylor, in retaliation for Taylor doing wrong against her friend. Ferguson was one of the first suspects taken into custody and arraigned as an adult for robbery and gang assault. She is no stranger to the law, having a past of violent acts and arrests. And now being tried as an adult, she could face up to 25 years in jail along with two of the other teens being tried as adults.

All teens have now been apprehended by police and will begin the criminal justice system… but this system can’t save them. Dr. Banks is the CEO of @Play, Inc., a firm specializing in sustainable behavioral change. With more than a decade of experience in therapeutic intervention, coaching and community health prevention Banks gives a real look at what is needed for the girls in this video and many others that are pushed into the system when society deems them unworthy of real rehabilitation.

These girls have been arrested, some have a bail set at as much as $500,000 and are being tried as adults – but is this the solution instead of redemptive services?

Banks: No, it’s a social challenge, right?  Anytime a community can create young people that are still relying on violence as a way of communicating to one another then you have to look at the community. Children don’t raise themselves.

The violence isn’t actually communicating anything other then their hatred for themselves and their inability to use their language. So clearly you don’t expect the person with the deficit or the inability to access the words to be the one to correct themselves because they are demonstrating in all manner and means they have lost the ability to do that.

Banks goes on to describe how studies show a person’s frontal lobe has not fully developed until after the age of 26. She references a Supreme Court Justice ruling where a child driving under the influence did not end up serving time, because it was proven their frontal cortex was under developed.

Anybody in that position, particularly the children, are not in my opinion to be held fully responsible of being able to redirect their inability to balance their own emotional challenges. With that being said, whatever school they are from has seen this challenge before and I am sure they all have already seen parts of the judicial system either in their family or indirectly.

It hasn’t worked. So, that is not a process that will provide a lot.

MommyNoire: So, what should have been the first call of action?

I say this with anger in my voice because I am third generation in this and I am tired of it – my grandfather did it, my mother did it and I’m doing it.

Why can’t a community learn how to do it?

You get the school principal, the guidance counselor, the chamber of commerce, the Pal, the police office league (that supposedly care about our children), the store owner merchants and you have a meeting. That’s what is suppose to happen and often it’s not until it gets to this point where the elected officials has to interfere and has to put everyone around the table and he’s got his lips poked out or her lips pocked out because this should have been stopped at level one.

I agree, it is clear this behavior has been seen before. What does a level one change look like?

  The school should have stopped this and whatever attempt that was made obviously didn’t work. So now we go higher on the food chain. Now we get everyone around the table and we have a plan of action, pretty much these kids need to be watched 24/7. The minute they leave their door, whoever is doing community surveillance needs to be with them. The minute they are in school it should be the same thing. The person that in the hall  or in the bathroom helping them to use their words. They want to kick? Someone is there to go “Un Uh, use your words.”

You keep training, rehearse, training and rehearsing, rehearsing, reciting and training until they understand that behavior cant be used here. You have to apply a lot of external structor because their internal structor or their own ability that relates to their own emotion is not functioning. I don’t ever think it got developed.


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