A few weeks ago, I wrote an article calling for a systematic change to the youth justice system. In that article, I alluded to a tragic tale involving a young man who, in my opinion, was failed by the system. The reason I didn't go into great detail at that time was I didn't feel it was my story to tell. But, the young man at the center of that tragedy was named Solan Peterson.

His sister, Savanah Hall, is demanding reform to the the youth justice system following the tragic death of her brother Solan. For those that don't know, Solan committed suicide while being held in solitary confinement at the Ware Youth Center in Coushatta. The 13 year old boy was being held there after allegedly setting a toilet paper roll and dispenser on fire at Haughton Middle School.

To give you a little background on Solan, he was adopted. According to his sister, as a child, he suffered enormous amounts of 'neglect and abuse'. When he'd cry as a baby, his mother give him cold medicine to shut him up. Eventually Solan and his siblings were removed from  their mother's care after their sister was born with drugs in her system.

According to Hall, Solan was placed with 11 different families by the time he was 7. Eventually, he did find a "forever home", but Solan's life caused the young man a lot of difficulties. He was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Hall says Solan was settling in with the Peterson family, avoiding trouble, playing hockey and enjoying life. Then things changed a bit, as they sometimes do, when his doctor made some changes to his medication.

That where this story becomes tragic.

A short time after Peterson's medication change, he was caught setting the roll of toilet paper on fire, arrested and sent to jail. Hall claims that Solan's father contacted his psychologist who allegedly said that Solan needed to be sent to a hospital, not jail. That plea to officials, according to Hall, fell on deaf ears and the boy was sent to solitary confinement in a youth jail. A short time later, this young man was dead, hanging himself from the door in his cell with a t-shirt.

A preliminary investigation shows the Ware guards, who were required to check on the boys every 15 minutes, didn't do so for over an hour. His sister says the system and many people failed young Solan.

According to an interview with KTBS, Hall wants full scale changes to the way young men and women are handled in the criminal justice system and a ban on placing these youngsters in solitary confinement:

"There has to be hundreds of alternative ways that could actually help better the child, or rehabilitate them in some way, so they can be a better person in the end, than confine them and make them angry. I don't want it to happen to another kid in Louisiana -- to another kid in this country. I don't want it to ever be a possibility."

She's working with some local judges and Senator Ryan Gatti in an effort to make some legislative changes. Gatti told KTBS he's not sure legislation is needed, but he's researching the situation.

I don't know if there will be any good to come from this tragic tale. I don't know if any long term changes will be made. All I know is that we failed this young man and I'm sure we fail thousand of men, women and children every single day in this country. Instead of helping those in need, we lock them up and forget them.

I don't have answers. I'm not an expert in this field. But what I do know is that giving a misguided youth a criminal record and throwing them in a cell can't be any kind of help.


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