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"That is the sentence that I am mandated by law to impose. If I had my discretion, I would impose another sentence, but that is mandated by law."

What kind of barbaric fucking country puts juvenile offenders in jail for LIFE?

What kind of moronic fucking country takes away sentencing prerogatives from judges and applies a One Size Fits All sentence irrespective of mitigating facts?

Oh. Yeah. THIS barbaric motherfucking moronic country.

Crossposted at MY LEFT WING

From The Independent/UK, by way of Common Dreams:

Published on Wednesday, October 12, 2005 by The Independent / UK

America Has 2,000 Young Offenders Serving Life Terms in Jail

by Andrew Gumbel

Two leading human rights organisations have accused the United States of in effect throwing away the lives of more than 2,000 juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole - a punishment out of step with international law but one increasingly popular with tough-on-crime US legislators.

According to a report being published today by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the United States is the only country to punish juveniles so severely on a routine basis. They counted 2,225 child offenders locked up for life across 42 American states. In the rest of the world, they found only a dozen other cases, restricted to three countries - Israel, South Africa and Tanzania.

"Criminal punishment in the United States can serve four goals: rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence and incapacitation," the report concludes, and that no punishment "should be more severe than necessary to achieve these stated goals. Sentencing children to life without parole fails to measure up on all counts."

Some American states permit the imposition of a life sentence without parole to offenders as young as 10. The youngest actually serving such a sentence are 13. Roughly one-sixth of those locked up for life committed their offences when they were under 16. Almost 60 per cent were given their life sentence for their first offence.

In most cases, the crime in question was murder. But about a quarter of those locked up, the report found, were not the actual murderers, merely participants in a robbery or burglary in which a murder was committed by someone else. In many American states, draconian laws stipulate that being present at the scene of a murder can be equivalent to being guilty of the murder, with punishment meted out accordingly.

The report found that while the number of juvenile offenders being sentenced to life had gone up markedly over the past 25 years, the rate of serious juvenile crime had gone down. In most years since 1985, juvenile offenders have been sentenced to life without parole at a faster rate than adult murderers.

The imposition of severe sentences on juvenile offenders has coincided with a general crackdown on crime in the United States over the past generation. Politicians have found that it pays electoral dividends to advocate an attitude of "lock 'em up and throw away the key".

As a result, state and federal legislators have introduced ever tougher regimes of mandatory minimum sentencing, including one notorious law in California whereby even non-violent offenders can face life without parole if they are caught three times. One of the mantras often heard in political circles is that offenders should do "adult time for adult crimes".

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch said it was inappropriate to deny the possibility of rehabilitation to teenagers. Sentencing them to life inside a prison removed motivation to pursue an education or any self-improvement. Being in an adult prison rather than a juvenile facility also exposed them to a heightened risk of assault and rape.

Sentencing children to life without parole is forbidden under the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every member state except the US and Somalia. Out of 154 countries surveyed in the report, 13 were found to have laws on their books permitting life sentences for minors, but nine of these had never actually imposed one.

Peter A, 29, lifer: A sentence disowned by the judge forced to deliver it

Peter A, a black child from a broken home in Chicago, was just 15 when he went on a crime spree, ostensibly to recover some stolen money and drugs stolen from his older brother. The outing resulted in the shooting of two men, but Peter neither participated in nor witnessed the killings.

In fact, he later testified, one of the murder victims was a friend of his who had nothing to do with the original theft. While the shootings took place, Peter was sitting in a van parked in the street. He was charged with "felony murder" anyway because he had accompanied the two killers and, by his own admission, stolen the van in which they travelled to the house where the murders took place.

The trial judge, Dennis Dernback, sympathised with Peter, calling him a "bright lad" with rehabilitative potential and accepting that, in the absence of his father, he had fallen under the bad influence of his older brother. Judge Dernback's hands were tied, however, by Illinois' sentencing code.

In his written sentence condemning Peter to life imprisonment without parole, he stated: "That is the sentence that I am mandated by law to impose. If I had my discretion, I would impose another sentence, but that is mandated by law."

Peter (not his real name) is now 29. He has obtained a high-school equivalence diploma and completed a course in legal studies. He works in the prison library. The only strike against his disciplinary record has been a single bad report - for the offence of possessing an extra pillow and stashing extra cereal in his cell.

Don't get me wrong -- I didn't just learn about this today. Like so many of the things that outrage and depress and infuriate me, fill me with despair, this is shit I've known all along. I learn it, I go ballistic, I compartmentalise it and move on to the NEXT fucking outrage. There are so MANY of them, you see.

But of course, they resurface, ugly facts do. And when they do, I am compelled to rage and weep all over again, perhaps dash off an indignant letter to the editor, or a blog entry, or simply vent at my long-suffering husband, or maybe just go fucking POSTAL in a way not often imagined as possible of a middle-aged housewife in suburbia,  possibly involving firearms, or perhaps merely a horrifying amount of Silly String.

This time it was a blog entry.

Originally posted to My Left Wing on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Only (4.00)
      in America can a president lie to a country, take us into a war that kills 2,000 (and counting Americans and countless Iraqis, yet remain not only free but in power -- while children who are present at the scene of a murder can be put in jail for life!  

      Stay strong!

      "No self-respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a Party that ignores her sex." -- Susan B. Anthony

      by Yellow Dog Dem Woman on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:28:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Maryscott - thanks (4.00)
      We forget this all too quickly. I wrote a diary on prisons back in April: Bush not putting enough people in prison and then forgot about this topic which does not touch me directly today. Thanks for this necessary reminder.

      We measure our civilisation by how we treat the weak, the powerless or the prisoners (variation on a theme).

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:17:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Children, can you say Fucktard? (none)
      No,then write on the blackboard "Bush is a fucktard" 100 times.

      What happens if we run out of outrage?

      "The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets" , Christopher Morley

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:48:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for writing this diary (n/t) (none)

      "On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées." -Victor Hugo

      by Darksyde888 on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:56:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Par for the course.... (none)
      Once again, we see the results of "passionate conservatism" - in that the people who passed this law operated under the delusion that tougher punishment, rather than better prevention is the answer to all these problems.

      Once again, the brown people take a hit in Bush's Merkin Regime.

      "Botched? What is that? The word of the Day?."

      by seronimous on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:54:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just sick (4.00)
    Incarcerating children for life? My god. Awful.

    The scariest thing is that over the last 25 years we've built a lot more prisons than colleges, even though their cost to the state is roughly the same.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:26:43 PM PDT

  •  My home state's dubious distinction (4.00)
    Today's Detroit Free Press reported on this story. Michigan ranks third, behind only Louisiana and Pennsylvania, in the number of offenders serving life without parole for crimes committed before age 18. There are 306 such inmates in our prison system.

    How did this happen?

    Michigan ranks high on the list for a number of reasons. First, it's one of only 11 states that considers offenders age 17 and older as adults.

    Second, Michigan prosecutors can opt to charge any juvenile 14 years of age or older as an adult without any appearances in juvenile court.

    Finally, the state's mandatory sentence of life without parole for anyone convicted of first-degree murder plays a role, meaning that prosecutors who go after someone as an adult and win a conviction essentially guarantee he or she will remain in prison for life. The judge has no flexibility in sentencing.

    "I don't see any more serious division in our country than we had in the Civil War and at other times."--Richard J. Daley

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:27:27 PM PDT

  •  n/t (4.00)
    In most years since 1985, juvenile offenders have been sentenced to life without parole at a faster rate than adult murderers.

    This is because they often cannot afford the best lawyers.  Nothing against PD's, but they're overworked, underpaid and often inexperienced.

    Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it. -- Mark Twain

    by GTPinNJ on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:29:20 PM PDT

  •  from experience (4.00)
    It's frustratingly obvious that piss-poor parenting raises kids with atrocious behavior problems.  Rather than do more to help (and hold accountable) parents that neglect, abuse, abandon, or just plain ignore (more common) what their kids are doing, we would rather throw away these kids in a cell and not have to think about it.  This as their crimes are more violent and highly publicized.

    Some kids where I live do some really sick and evil things, but what kid is the same at 13 or 15, as opposed to 45 years of age?  Makes no sense to punish them for life.  However, I have no problem with charging a 17 year old murderer or sex offender as an adult.

    But the more we get away from creating a sense of community in our towns, where we look out for our own...and the more we think life sentences will actually stop a 12 year old from doing horroble things, the more this will remain a problem.  

    We are raising communities filled with conscious-freee kids, and a direct cause of that is the absentee landlord-style of parenting going on right next door.  We need to be our brother's keeper, and that starts in our own homes first, then our communities.

    --Liberate your radio--

    by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:31:43 PM PDT

    •  Yes, that's the point (4.00)

      Caring communities are the key to returning human values to the free-market, atomizing jungle.

      One other semi-related thing... jail-rape jokes, even when applied to Rove and DeLay, have always made my skin crawl. Incarceration is one thing, incarceration to a horrordome is another.

      Reform reform.

      What will survive of us is love

      by howth of murph on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:41:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lionel Tate (none)
        In South Florida, this young man (unsupervised at that moment) beat the shit out of a little girl hard enough it actually caused her liver to split.  He was given a life sentence, but it was overturned and he plea-bargained out when they re-filed on him, leaving that young man with a long probation sentence.

        Makes sense to me, as he was under 15 at the time, and should be given a chance to rehabilitate.  The probation allows some minimal justice for the dead girl's family, as Lionel has been arrested a few more times since his plea, and could face more charges, thus punishing him for not reforming his behavior.

        There has to ba a humane balance between the rights of a juvenile who commits a crime, and the family that is the victim of it.

        also of note, a therapist had warned Lionel needed much therapeutic help after the initial crime.  He recieved little as he was charged as an adult and sent to the juvenile wing of the adult prison.  Had he gotten help, who knows if he would keep getting arrested now?  

        --Liberate your radio--

        by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:51:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There was a press conference (none)
          After or before the sentence came down, I can't remember, where one of the reverends pretty much ended any debate about excessive punishments for kids for me.  The reverend said, "The life-in-prison sentence is for individuals who we believe are completely beyond reform.  How can we possibly judge a child beyond reform?"

          Hey Roberts lovers, a link to a CNN story PRIOR to the nomination: Big Biz Draws Up Supreme Court Wish List

          by DWCG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:55:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Lionel Tate is scum (none)
          He viciously assaulted and killed a little child, he and his lawyer tried the blame pro-wrestling defense in the court of public opinion. I think the manner in which his crime was committed warrented a life sentence. Of course I also personally think psycharists are scam artists so that may part of my reasoning
      •  Yes, indeed ... (4.00)
        One other semi-related thing... jail-rape jokes, even when applied to Rove and DeLay, have always made my skin crawl.

        And frequently delivered by people who (rightly) decry the use of torture at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib.

    •  Agreed, mostly. But a question ... (4.00)
      ...for you. You say it's OK to prosecute 17-year-olds for murder. How 16-year-olds? 15-year-olds? 14?

      I'm not being snarky. I'm being serious. We draw the line of legally adult at 18 or 21, depending on the issue. Should it be redrawn? If so, where exactly?

      In South Caroline, as the Christopher Pittman case  showed, adulthood for criminal prosecution can arrive as soon as a child is 12.  

      •  question wasn't addressed to me (none)
        but I think a person of any age if alleged to have committed murder should be prosecuted for murder.  It's the mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines that concern me, as well as the lack of comprehensive rehabilitation programs across the country.

        My other problem is the drug war, which creates more criminals every day and uses up government and social resources which could go into rehabilitation or prevention programs.  

        From personal experience, there are truly some mean kids out there who do nothing but harass, bully and abuse other kids.  I'm not a member of the all-children-are-innocent camp.  Children need discipline and whether that comes from a teacher, a parent, a neighbor or someone riding the subway while a bunch of unruly kids are running around and jumping on the seats, then they should get it.  Not all these "problem children" come from broken homes or have disabilities.  Some of them are seriously cruel, don't care whether what they've done is wrong, and they deserve to be segregated and severely punished - though I fail to see how life imprisonment is an appropriate punishment or a functional means of rehabilitation.

        If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

        by deep6 on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:23:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's just a personal opinion (none)
        I cannot base it legally, cause the law says you are an adult at 18.  

        I base it on personal experience with that population.  In the past, I have worked with some 13-17 year olds who do the sickest, most evil things you could think of - Raping baby brothers, beating crippled parents, prostituting younger siblings, burning animals, running well-organized homeinvasion theft rings...REAL things that most people on this site would accuse me of making up, yet they happen every day.

        So, I guess technically, I would allow the definition of adult offender to be reduced to seventeen in certain circumstances, but only because of my predjudiced experiences.  It is also of note that I could easily name fifteen cases where a 16 or 17 year old was charged as an adult and I feel it was astoundingly inappropriate.  

        It depends on the situation, and I am more likely to approve of doing so in cases of long-term (over six year) criminal histories.

        --Liberate your radio--

        by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:26:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  no adult charges under 17 (none)
          but there are certain maximum-risk programs and legal tools (keeping juvenile jurisdiction until age 21 on sex offenders, for example) used for violent kids that age, that still offer a chance for rehabilitation and tightening the reigns at the same time.

          --Liberate your radio--

          by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:28:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I spent 23 months in ... (none)
          ...the Industrial (Reform) School for Boys at Golden, Colorado (1957-1959) and 13 months at the Colorado Youth Center as a "counselor" (read: guard) (1969), so I know a lot of those "sick, evil things" do, in fact, happen. And, yes, I know it's gotten a lot worse in the past few decades.
          •  The stories you and I could tell Joe Public (none)
            would probably make him never leave his house again.

            But you probably also know better than anyone that sometimes, good kids do evil things, make mistakes, and can learn from them.  Sometimes they don't learn.

            So I think everything has to be taken on an individual basis, though I was happy the death penalty was striken for kids.  Strangely, more for a logical POV than a moral one.  Never understood how a society can condemn you for killing someone, then cheer for your death.  Can't have it both ways.

            --Liberate your radio--

            by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:43:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Maryscott (4.00)
    The U.S. Supreme Court just banned executing juveniles in March.

    There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. -- Sherlock Holmes

    by Carnacki on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:38:46 PM PDT

  •  And the Right pitched a big hissy fit (none)
    They're still sore that the Court dared to consider what countries outside the U.S. of A. think of executing juveniles.

    "I don't see any more serious division in our country than we had in the Civil War and at other times."--Richard J. Daley

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:40:09 PM PDT

    •  Remember what (4.00)
      Judge Roy Moore said about people who are against executions:

      "Too soft to put a criminal in a well deserved tomb
      But (improvising here, I tried hard to forget his 'poem') quick to kill the baby while it is within the womb".

      There is a viciousness and a blood lust in American society that scares me.  I was active in a group called Victims for Reconciliation.  It was a bunch of family members of murder victims who were opposing the death penalty.  

      I was kind of hinky about being in such a group because I don't think you need 'credentials' to oppose the death penalty but invariably, when I'd express my absolute opposition to it, people would drag out the "if you had a loved one murdered you'd change your mind' canard, so I could pull out my 'Aha!  But I have!" story and (theoretically) shame them into listening.

      It didn't actually work that way, most of the time, though.  People would say that there was something wrong with me- perhaps I didn't love my sister enough to want 'justice' for her murderer or that I had fallen for the false philosophy of psycho babble, etc.  They were big into 'an eye for an eye'.  

      •  Funny how (none)
        the 'eye for an eye' people are usually quite determined to stay blind to anything they don't want to see. Life's a lot simpler that way. Darker, but simpler.

        The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

        by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:36:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do you not think (4.00)
    that if every child who made it through high school without a criminal record were assured that he or she could go to college (with the bills paid), crime in this country would plummet?

    Of course it would. Probably the vast majority of the crime committed in the US is the result of hopelessness. People who have no chance to better themselves have no incentive to live inside the lines.

    Every American should have access to quality health care AND a quality education that doesn't end after 12th grade. In the long term, both would benefit the country and be cheaper than the alternatives to boot.

    Why oh why doesn't anyone (Dems included) get it?

    •  Everyone does have access to... (none)
      education up until 12th grade.

      The problem is kids in inner cities are often raised by a single parent who works all day and the kids are often raised in practice by other children, school teachers and other people from the neighborhood - if they get in with the wrong crowd they are much more likely to engage in serious crimes.

      In addition, the poor treatment in prison adds to the problem as people in prison loose all sense of societal boundries as well as a feeling of self worth.

      "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:25:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mandatory Sentencing (4.00)
    Is a crime.  

    It is just another in a long line of simplistic, half-baked ideas (term limits? flat tax? trickle down?) that appeals to the easily-misled while running this country into the ground.  

    It makes me sick.

    •  The problem is that we allowed the hole to be dug. (none)
      We allowed our state legislators to pass mandatory guidelines in the interest of getting tough on crime.

      The judges never wanted it.

      Now the legislators can't get out of this hole without being branded soft on crime.

      A few years ago, the judges made some noise here in PA...trying to make it easier for the legislators. The judges lobbied for a loosening of the mandatory guidelines.

      However, the legislators did not have the stomach for it.

      I stood near a local state legislator in a tavern when this lobbying effort was underway. He was ticked off at the judges for telling the legislators how it should be...and he is a Democrat.

      The only way out is to get the laws declared unconstitutional, imho. And, which one of these kids has the cash to take this all the way to the state or federal Supreme Court?

      This issue deserves every bit of the attention that capital punishment gets. After all, it IS a form of capital punishment. We are taking their lives from them while they are still kids.

      We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job.
      -Your Preznut, 9/20

      by Big Nit Attack on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:07:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In regards to... (none)
        capital punishment I think opposition is a faith based religious opposition and thus would violate seperation of church and state.

        We need to support religious freedom, but the state should not institute religious doctrine or practices.

        "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:31:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  support for capital punishment is (none)
          typically faith-based.
          How many times have you heard the eye-for-an-eye pablum.

          "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."- Franz Kafka, "Before the Law"

          by normal family on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:13:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I guess it could go both ways; (none)
            I think that it should be available, but only in extreme circumstances. I must say, however that I would not be disappointed if capital punishment was abolished.

            "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

            by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:23:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Whenever... (none)
      ...I am selected for jury duty I wait till the very end of the selection process when the judge finally asks everyone, "Is there any reason you cannot fairly serve on a jury?"

      Of course, I launch in to my 2 minute 30 second speech on how minimum mandatory sentencing violates the seperation of powers (ie. the legislature should not be dictating sentancing). It's quite the event.

      Unfortunately, last time around the judge remembered me and cut me off 15 seconds in...

      be good,

      •  I'd Rather You Be Quiet... (none)
        ...serve on the jury and nullify a verdict if 'justice' required.
        •  I have never gotten that (none)
          far in the jury selection process but I was thinking that if I did make it on to a 'capital' jury, I might lie to get on it and nullify.  

          This is Illinois, where even a corrupt Republican governor suspended the state's death penalty and emptied death row because the process was so flawed.  I don't remember the last time anyone was executed here, but the fact that there is such a law on the books is shameful.

          But getting back to the concept of children being put in jail for life, was this even done in ancient societies?  I am aware that juveniles were executed in many cultures in ancient and medieval (and obviously recent) times, but what about jailing for life?

        •  If it was a capital case... (none)
          ...then, yes, I'd forgo my ego and keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, I have not been called to anything that serious.

          be good,

    •  mandatory sentencing (none)
      mandatory sentencing just adds to the desperation and hopelessness of the economically disadvantaged. they know that their third sentence will be their last, and more and more are maxing out on the 10-20-life three strikes rule before they even turn 18, thanks to mandatory sentencing and the pernicious practice of trying kids as young as 12 as adults. makes the DAs look good to the voters, and reinforces the kids' perception that society considered them throwaways since birth.
    •  It is also a violation (none)
      of two of the most fundamental and venerable principles of criminal law: that justice must be applied individually and that the judiciary must be independent (a judiciary that has a core function stripped away by the political branches of governments has been shorn of a part of its independence.

      "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."- Franz Kafka, "Before the Law"

      by normal family on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:16:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  NY Times (4.00)
    last week had a cover series on just this topic, so perhaps we are seeing signs that attitudes are changing somewhat on the subject of life without parole for juveniles.
  •  When I first arrived in California ... (4.00) 1986, I spent a few days doing "ride-alongs" with police and unarmed gang intervention units. I was witness to some horrific stuff, including arriving at a "scene" seconds after a young fellow had been gunned down in a drive-by shooting, and being at a hospital when gang-bangers arrived to take vengeance on a rival (who, as it turned out, had died in the ambulance).

    But, the most horrific experience I ever had was during a ride-along with a police sergeant and his partner. They were investigating a fight that had left one young man - a member of the Crips gang - with his eye popped from its socket. The apartment we entered was not something out of Dwell magazine. I didn't see a book anywhere. And mom didn't appear to be completely there, if you know what I mean.

    The sergeant grilled the 9-year-old brother of the boy we had actually come to see but didn't find at home. The brother was a member of the "Bloods," at that time, deadly enemies of the Crips. The kid had attitude, no doubt. He didn't know where his brother was, he said, defiantly and wouldn't tell if he did. Within minutes, with threats and glares and barks, the sergeant had the kid shaking and in tears, and he gave away his brother's whereabouts.

    We left. And, back in the patrol car, the sergeant said: "Another hopeless case. Might as well lock him up now and throw away the key."

    A hopeless 9-year-old? A 9-year-old worthy of a life sentence? The sergeant's partner agreed. And, over the next few weeks, I found a lot of fellow journalists, lawyers, politicians, judges, probation officers and, yes, even some social workers who agreed.

    If I'd been considered hopeless at 9, I'd be in prison today, or dead. Any society that gives up on its children this way has given up on itself.

    •  How many of us here on this site (4.00)
      have done things, horrible things, that we could have been arrested and charged had we been caught, at 13, 14, 17???

      Probably quite a few.
      Were we a lost cause too?

      Good comment.

      --Liberate your radio--

      by Sam Loomis on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:55:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's different now (none)
        Relative to what I experienced in high school (mid 1980s) it seems like teenagers are treated much more harshly than I ever was for identical conduct. Amongst my family members I have seen some of the kids get two weeks' suspension for something that would have merited 3 hours of detention when I was their age.

        Likewise, I had several run-ins with police for things like underage drinking, being at rowdy parties, trespassing, etc. I was never once arrested and never got more than a stern talking to. If I had beer the typical response from the police would be to take it and pour it out, or 'confiscate' it if it were decent beer.

        If that identical interaction were to happen today there is little doubt in my mind that I would be cited, arrested, or otherwise put in the system (and my beer would still get confiscated). On top of that, my school would be notified and I would be suspended for at least a week. It can be quickly downhill from there. Once you're in the system any following infractions snowball and the resulting punishments grow exponentially harsher.

        •  That reminds me (none)
          of the case where now Chief Justice Roberts upheld a case where a 12 year old girl was arrested and mistreated for eating a french fry on the subway.

          This was the case that lead me to question what kind of justice Roberts will be and while I am still somewhat concerned.

          "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

          by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:30:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  No, we weren't "lost causes"... (none)
        ...but then again, a lot of us probably weren't Black, either. :(

        I'll never forget the video they had of the little girl in Florida, the one they called the police and had five of them pin her down and put handcuffs on her for throwing a temper tantrum at school.  I felt like I was watching a rape in progress, I almost threw up.

        The world is full of a lot of things I wish I didn't know about.  I don't think it's these kids' faults, though.  We whine about how their parents can't take care of them, well, of course they can't!  They're working two jobs just to stay alive.  We could eliminate a huge amount of crime just by raising the minimum wage to $10/hour, bringing back "family wages" for people raising families, or even by paying mothers to stay home and take care of the next generation.  We're ONLY screwing ourselves by taking such bad care of the future of society.

        •  The Big Fight (none)
          Going on down here in my part of Florida now is whether the cops who patrol the schools should use Tasers.  Tasers?  What the fuck do children do at school that would warrant tasering them?

          It is clear to me that everyone connected with children that are discipline problems are either hogtied by the system or just can't be bothered to do their jobs and help children who are having problems.  It did not used to be this way until someone decided to ratchet up the penalties for bad behavior.  A typical action-reaction cycle.

          Embrace diversity. Not everyone is intelligent.

          by FLDemJax on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:06:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Don't forget NCLB rules (none)
      Schools with a certain percentage of criminal offenders for three years running are supposed to offer students the ability to transfer to another school. Where is that magical safe school in Philly or Detroit?

      The sad truth is that children entering into the public school system are in some cases already coming in with strikes against them, assessed in their Head Start pre-school programs. Kids with histories of assault on other kids, before they've even finished first grade, can be labelled as repeat offenders. The "permanent record" is alive and well in federally assisted educational programs.

      "Our attitude was- the revolution can't start until we find our hair gel." Joe Strummer

      by histopresto on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:20:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not as clear as I could have been (none)
        As a result of reporting burdens relative to the NCLB rules, there appears to be a clear disincentive for public school officials to report bad acts by students. That also means that in addition to masking problems at individual schools, the kids aren't identified as being at risk and as a result, they don't get the help that could rehabilitate lesser criminal acts than those that are the primary subject of MSOC's diary.

        "Our attitude was- the revolution can't start until we find our hair gel." Joe Strummer

        by histopresto on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:29:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  this is just a piece of a much larger puzzle (4.00)
    federal and state sentencing guidelines have taken discretion away from judges and put sentencing squarely in the hands of federal and state legislators and we all know how well they govern.

    What this means in the real world is that the punishment may not fit the crime.

     Blakely v. Washington has somewhat changed that but we still have a long way to go.

    For more info on mandatory minimums go here:


    by tlaw on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:47:50 PM PDT

    •  We also have... (none)
      the problem of giving too much power to prosecuters.

      "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:33:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Terrifying story (4.00)
    What kind of country is the US turning into? What kind of people allow such laws to pass, what kind of lawmaker pushes for such punishment? Is compassion and tolerance for human weakness completely going out of fashion? Are the people becoming harsher, more vengeful in seeking penalties? Or are they merely unaware and indifferent towards what's happening in their name?

    And what are the odds that 90% of those juveniles sentenced above are black?

  •  Thank you for bringing this up. (none)
    The so-called justice system in this country is something that does not get enough attention on this site.  It really is horrifying.  I think any reasonable person who did any research into the prison industrial complex would come away a rabid proponent of sweeping changes.  The incarceration of this country in general is horrible, and this story is very sad.
    •  Exactly... (none)
      this is why I am so upset about the Gitmo/etc. ongoing torture is because it is a more extreme version of what goes on in US prisons.

      There are other issues that matter, but this is a big one. We cannot truly begin to rehabilitate people in our own prisons until we respect every prisoners basic human dignity and recognize that a prisoners constitutionally protected dignity and privacy are more important than anyone's alleged equal employment rights.

      We cannot expect prisoners to respect societal boundries when normal boundries are not respected in prison. Supreme Court Justice Stevens has talked about this problem, but it never seems to get resolved.

      "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:45:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's To (none)
    electing a government that avoids the unauthorized use of silly string.

    "Have you no sense of decency, sir. At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" -- Boston Attorney Joe Welch, taking down Sen. Joe McCarthy.

    by BostonJoe on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 01:57:35 PM PDT

  •  My personal experience with juvenile justice in PA (4.00)
    No, no, no...I wasn't arrested!

    I worked as an intern to a juvenile court judge.  What I think this report needs is a bit of context, and that only comes from knowing more about the PA juvenile justice system.

    The mandate in PA juvenile justice is that rehabilitation must be a priority in sentencing.  PA not only operates its own juvenile detention centers, but also contracts with other facilities that provide specialized services, where they focus on drug rehabilitation, "boot camps" for violent children, etc.

    A judge is required to consider such rehabilitative measures before sentencing a child to a more jail-like center.

    I'd say about 90% of the children that appeared in the courtroom I worked in came from broken homes, and often their fathers were in prison themselves, or there whereabouts were unknown (not a slight at single moms, just a fact).  Family support was slight, at best.

    PA juvenile courts review a child's grades as part of sentencing.  Often, they were quite low.  Judges realize in PA that just locking a kid up will not help them with their problems at home or in shcool.  But, with rehabilitation, they might have a chance in life.

    The one courtroom I worked in is assigned, on average, 25 cases per day (many get dismissed, or moved to a later trial date).  So, that works out to 125 cases per week, and over 6,000 cases per year.

    That's one courtroom, in one city, in one state.

    The statistic above cites over 2000 children sentenced to life in 42 states.

    Also, consider this: in PA, for example, children cannot be sentenced to life in juvenile court.  It can only be done in municipal court.

    Any child under 18 goes immediately to the juvenile system (unless they committed murder), and must be "certified" before they can be moved over to the adult system.  The process of certification is carried out for significant offenses.  Also reviewed is a juvenile's criminal record.

    One of the "side-effects" of the focus of rehabilitation is that there children who are given many "chances," but continually commit crimes.  I've seen records on kids that are the size of a manuscript.  These are the children certification is designed to move to the adult system.

    Certification takes place in a "cert hearing," before the court, with lawyers present, witnesses, and all the rules of evidence applied.  Its not done on a whim, and most judges are hesitant to certify a juvenile.  There is a presumption that any person under 18 belongs in the juvenile system.

    So, what are we left with?  Well, in PA, steps are lawsin placed that are designed to help kids with rehab, and to make sure that the ones that end up in municipal court are the real bad apples.

    I agree that the above report is disturbing to our sensibilties, and that there are children caught up in the system that may not belong there, and that many PDs are not very good, but I can tell you, from personal experience that, at least in PA, this is a not a coldhearted system hell bent on locking kids up.  In fact, I think its the opposite.

    Instead of getting all upset about how horrible the system is, I suggest that this country take a long look at the causes of juvenile crime, and provide more funding for early rehabilitation.

    •  Hey, I can multi-task (4.00)
      Let's do BOTH!

      The Christian Right is neither Witness Every Day

      by TXsharon on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:12:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  90% from broken homes? wow! (none)

      ...Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué...

      by PhillyGal on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:35:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep! (none)
        In PA juvenile court, before the day begins, the judge gets a list of all of the cases assigned to his courtroom for that day.  The information provided includes DOB, address, names of parents, their parents' address(es), crimes charged, etc.

        Often, the parents had different addresses (sometimes the address was jail), the parents had different last names (not married).  Other times there would be no father listed ("unknown") at all.

        So, in all, from my own observations, I'd say 90% of the children that appeared before us on a given day were from broken or single parent homes.

        The system does fail children, I do understand that.  But, IMHO, I believe the "system breakdown" begins at home, with children not receiving the love, support, structure, and environment they need.

        •  which is why (4.00)
          As a single parent, I have to work exponentially harder than the "traditional family" to raise my child. We've not heard from his dad for two years now. I'd prefer his dad were around to help out in the child-rearing, but he's chosen not to be, and I imagine that is the case with many other single parents. So we try our best to instill values and common sense into our kids and then hope for the best.

          I have to have little chats with him frequently, now that he's a teenager, to really pay attention to the character of the people he hangs out with, because the thugs in this neighborhood one day will get into trouble and I don't want him to experience "guilt by association." Fortunately, yet sadly, he is no longer friends with any of the kids in this neighborhood since they decided to gang up on him and fight him for no reason in particular. Boredom, I think. He tends to skip the school bus and take public transportation home an hour or two after the other kids so he can avoid confrontation. And we live in a nice neighborhood in a nice town.

          Some of these kids just have a screw or two loose, some are acting out their frustrations. One of them, now basically the ringleader, used to be a nice kid when they were in third grade together. But I've already had to inform the school that my son was under a great deal of stress due to this kid rounding up the neighborhood gang to "jump him" when they got off the school bus. It happened, and my son fought. He knows how to defend himself. He said the two who actually punched him couldn't hit. The ringleader fought like the girls did in the urban high school I went to--he pulled my son's hair. My son has not spoken to this kid since. A kid he's been friends with since the third grade has now turned on him.

          I don't really know what to think about all of this. I'm sad for my son losing friends, but he's not particularly sad to sever friendships with kids like these, or so he says. So I hope that speaks volumes about his character and I hope he will continue to make responsible choices.

          But it saddens me that some of these kids will one day soon go to jail because of their bad choices, when maybe, just maybe, if they'd gotten the help and attention they needed at a younger age, they'd have become responsible adults. When I think about kids being incarcerated for life, I get as angry as MSOC.

          "People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

          by rioduran on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 06:35:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good Lord! (none)
    My son is 10!

    The Christian Right is neither Witness Every Day

    by TXsharon on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:11:18 PM PDT

  •  Prisons: an historical failure (4.00)
    When cell block prisons were developed in Enlightenment France and England, there was a notion of reform that accompanied them.  This reform was often comprised of religious instruction and forced labor.  Adolescents were the first targets for this new experiment in punishment.  Sentences usually ranged from a few weeks to a few months at a time.

    Imprisonment as the primary form of social punishment gained acceptance because it was believed to be humane--no torture instruments, no bodies being mutilated.  However, prisons also performed the function of physically removing those considered  dangerous from public view.  This happened with other populations as well, particularly with the mentally disabled.  

    Accompanying the civil rights moment was a movement in institutional reform, to repair crumbling 19th century prisons and attempt to educate their inmates.  Mental institutions were shut down and different means of therapy and housing became available to those unable to function in society on their own.  

    Interestingly, our view toward the intellectually impaired has changed since the 1950s and '60s in a positive sense, but our view towards prisoners has not.  Instead, it has worsened, with ever harsher penalties and the introduction of ever younger inmates.  The concept of rehabilitation or reform seems a romantic one now.

    I wish that the feeling of repulsion toward the longterm, even lifetime, imprisonment of children could be applied to all prisoners.  Permanent imprisonment is not a solution to the fundamental problems that cause crime; in 250 years of this type of punishment it has never been shown to deter crime.

    I hope for a new groundswell of reform like that which emerged in the '60s.  However, I think we have to apply our imagination to invent new forms of punishment that take into account social recovery, not vengeance and disappearance.

    "I'm not interested in that same liberal claptrap. That meow, meow, meow, ironic detachment." -- Stephen Colbert

    by SneakySnu on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:12:16 PM PDT

    •  see Foucault's _Discipline & Punish_ (4.00)
      the notion that prisions originated as institutions of reform has been demolished in excruciating detail in this book

      way way too much to go into here, but prisons are just an extension of a society already accustomed to surveillance and domination by authorities and the institutions that support them

      Foucault delineates the parallels between prisons and their anologues: schools, military institutions, hospitals, etc.

      fun stuff!

      •  You know where I'm coming from (none)
        I wrote a dissertation on the architecture of an early 18th-century House of Correction for boys in Rome.  Foucault's work provided me with the tools for my analysis of the building.

        "I'm not interested in that same liberal claptrap. That meow, meow, meow, ironic detachment." -- Stephen Colbert

        by SneakySnu on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:36:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  occasionally (none)
          my reading comprehension can be adequate

          it took me a while to wake up to our society's screwed up notions of criminality and incarceration but it wasn't until I read that book that I could start to make sense of how we got here and how it is allowed to continue

  •  UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (4.00)
    Our need to execute or imprison children in conflict with the law is one of the main reasons we are one of only two countries in the world not to ratify this treaty (the other being Somalia, a failed state).

    We signed in 96 but Helms bottled it up in the Committee on Foreign Relations and Bush has no intention of trying to get it signed.  

    Children's rights is an issue in this country that really demonstrates how clearly out of touch the US is with the rest of the world.  A powerful segment of the religious right wants to send us back to the 19th century on issues like this and the Bush administration is willing to appease them on "marginal issues" like this if it means a few extra votes.  

    "If he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward." -Albert Camus

    by jcbhan on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:26:45 PM PDT

  •  I've personally defended (none)
    juveniles facing life sentences . . . a very scary prospect.  Too immature to by alcohol, too immature for a driver's license, too immature to vote, but mature and "sophisticated" enough to be tried as an adult and get a life sentence.
  •  Yes (none)
    I am also outraged by the mindless imposition of punishment on children.  I believe that rehabilitation should be the goal for all treatment of people who have done something wrong.  But it is even more important for children.  Our system mandates punishment, and this is wrong.
  •  Some U.S. companies who profit (4.00)
    from the prison industry and/or prison labor:

    Correctional Communications Corp (gets gov contracts & kick-backs)
    Smith Barney
    American Express
    General Electric
    Victoria's Secret
    CMT Blues
    Seattle Cotton Works
    Lee Jeans


  •  not news... (none)
    "they" have been chipping away at the juvenile justice system for years now.
  •  Not only is this terrible, (none)
    it's also, in the long run, bad politics for the Democrats.  Maybe penny wise, but pound foolish.  Please follow the link to see my arguments as to why.

    "Ah, you come from one of those Americas. You have my sympathy." - Neil Gaiman

    by PatrioticallyIncorrect on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:49:03 PM PDT

  •  It is not civilized. (4.00)
    "the United States is the only country to punish juveniles so severely on a routine basis"

    I wish more Americans would realize that the rest of the world is not ignorant of statistics like this. It is why the idea of America spreading `freedom and democracy' is viewed as such a sick farce by so much of the rest of the planet.

    Outside the US, the American system of `democracy' and government is widely viewed as dysfunctional, stuck in a structural time warp from with the rest of the world has long since evolved and is continually refining. And the same is true of the justice system. The casual acceptance of prison brutality (even here on this site) never fails to turn my stomach. There is a level of brutality and mean-spiritedness at the core of American `justice' that the rest of the world has long since rejected as deeply uncivilized. How children are treated is one obvious example of where America's core values and practices are fundamentally at odds with most other nations. The death penalty, drug laws, and racial disparities also come readily to mind when considering how very out of step the US is with other nations beliefs on what the fundamental principals of a justice system should be.  

    It is not civilized.

    The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

    by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 02:51:16 PM PDT

    •  In Europe (none)
      the norm is that life imprisonment, even for adults, is not compatible with respect for fundamental human rights.  
      In the US life can be damn cheap (for those who can't pay.)

      "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."- Franz Kafka, "Before the Law"

      by normal family on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:23:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Europe really is leading these days (none)
        I was too broad in stating 'the rest of the world...' in my comment above, but saying only 'the first world' is too small a group. The European nations are certainly leaders in fundamental human rights. What is extraordinary is how far behind American standards are even compared to most of the third world.

        The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

        by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:00:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Said it before (none)
    So I might as well say it again. I am probably to the far right of most on this blog when it comes to crime and punishment.

    So this brings my outrage meter to zero.

    as always my sympathy goes with the victims of crime

    In 1998, 14-year-old Joshua Phillips bludgeoned his 8-year-old neighbor, and then hid her body beneath his waterbed. Seven days later his mother noticed something leaking from beneath the bed. Joshua claimed that's he'd accidentally hit Maddie in the eye with a baseball. She screamed and he panicked. He then dragged her to his home where he hit her with a bat and then stabbed her eleven times. His story failed to convince a Florida jury, who convicted him of first-degree murder.

    For many people, children who kill are monstrous, unthinkable. Yet where they once were rare deviants, they are now becoming more commonplace. Let's look at the types of killings that children initiate to see the variety of motives involved.

    •  My sympathy isn't so constrained (none)
      To freeze in time a declaration of 'crime' and 'victim' seems to me the crudest and easiest way to view criminal behaviour. As does the idea that sympathy and compassion for the victim excludes the possibility of understanding and compassionate treatment of the criminal.

      You are not just to the far right of kos blog members, you are on the trailing edge of history. There are practical reasons much of the world is evolving to a more compassionate justice system, but the philosophical issues are hardly new:

      "Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens" Plato

      The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

      by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:33:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  hmm (none)
        I think i understand criminals very well - and sure once they are locked up in jail they should be treated decently. I'm all for them getting a bed, a toilet, a shower and 3 meals a day.

        Though i would like to see corporal punishment returned, not only to the criminal justice system but also our school systems.

        I'd like to see the extension of the death penalty to violent sex offenders, and mandatory life sentences to child molesters and serious corporate crooks.

        but like i said, most people here arent going to agree, and thats ok

        •  i understand criminals very well... (none)
          Well then you no doubt understand me very well, because as they say `there but for the grace of God go I.'  

          When I think of some of the irresponsible, really stupid things I did and choices I made as a teenager, all that separated me from a serious criminal record was good timing and luck. My driving alone was irresponsible enough to leave me thankful as an adult that I never hurt or killed anyone else. Or any one of a hundred times I made the wrong choice, picked the wrong friend, trusted the wrong person. And then this diary might have been about me.

          So you'll have to forgive me for being biased here, but I can't help think what a waste it would have been to have to spend my entire adult life in a cage all because my stupid choices resulted in tragedy. Aren't I a lucky girl?!

          The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

          by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 05:07:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not going to retract my "4" (none)
          But I do want to make it clear that I don't endorse most of what you say here.  While I agree those kids who did actually commit murder should be incarcerated for life (unless they are like 4, in which case it really is just a tragic accident), I'm against the death penalty in all cases and also against corporal punishment (including spanking) not only in school but at home--and I think it should be outlawed as it is in some countries already.


    •  Let me lay this on you... (none)
      You know how there is a longstanding argument as to the definition of "statutory rape," to whom it should apply and why, and so forth? Keep that in mind here.

      When I was 15 - 17, I did not murder anyone. However, I DID "allow" adult men to molest me. More than one, less than a dozen.

      I thought I was making that "decision" myself. In fact, I argued, a decade later, to my mother, that I had "asked" for it.

      Do you think I asked for it? Was I capable, in terms of emotional maturity, of "deciding" to become sexually involved with men in their 30s, who treated me appallingly (in ADDITION to the molestation)?

      Or was I an immature, unformed mind, being manipulated by far more sophisticated people than I?

      I'll tell you what, I was one smart motherfucking precocious little cookie, but I never saw them coming.

      (so to speak. Ugh)

      Looking back on the painfully bright, verbal and emotionally vulnerable CHILD I was at 15 and 16 and, yes, 17... I cannot with any certainty say that had circumstances so aligned themselves, I might not have been formed into the sort of adolescent who could commit murder.

      Lucky for me (and whoever might have fallen victim to any murderous impulses in me) I was white, middle class and the product of several years of inculcation toward passivity.

      Long story short: I was the victim of crime at 15, but I might very well have been the perpetrator of crime, given a different set of circumstances. And remembering just how very LITTLE control I had over my life, my thoughts and feelings and even my very ACTIONS... gives me pause when tempted to condemn a 15 year old murderer.

      •  Hmmm... (none)
        Are you saying the age of consent should be eighteen?  I don't agree with that.  I'm sorry that you were treated awfully by older men as a teenager; but of course this happens to eighteen year olds too, no?  What's the line between treating someone abominably and committing a crime?  That's a tough one.

        I also don't agree with letting anyone (at least, anyone old enough to know what they are doing: say, over ten) ever be free on the streets again if they have killed someone.  That doesn't mean they should spend their lives at hard labour; maybe with good behaviour they could be transferred to a facility with the comforts of home.  But I don't believe the families of victims should ever have to see the killer of their loved ones out on the street again.

        (I am against capital punishment, btw, just to be clear.)


        •  Dunno. (none)
          Some days I think it should be 25.

          I don't know WHAT I'm saying -- except I don't think a, say, 13 year old who commits murder should automatically be locked away for the rest of his natural born LIFE. It's absurd. And the ESSENCE of "cruel and unusual."

          Man, my personality and beliefs change from one decade to the next -- how on EARTH can we justify locking away a child on the very CUSP of adolescence... FOREVER?

          Just can't deal with that thought.

          •  (hopefully not totally incoherent) ramblings (none)
            Some days I think it should be 25.

            Well, it's interesting: there's an argument that could be made for something approaching that, anyway.  Last semester I took a course called Adolescent Psychology, and was surprised to learn that the contemporary view of adolescence is that it is divided into three stages, and the last spans ages 18-22.  So that means that pretty much all college kids (who we even call "kids", notice) are still adolescents, and indeed I do notice a LOT of difference in the maturity level of, say, a fifth year senior compared to a freshman or even a junior.

            But on the other hand, I'm a believer in evolutionary psychology.  And it's hard for me to think we're meant to have this working equipment, and the desire to use it, and be artificially prevented from doing so for a decade!  

            I think to some degree or another, in our contemporary society most women go through some point where they are "taken advantage of", and they suffer some kind of psychological trauma as a result.  That definitely sucks, I can't deny that.  Hell, I've got a two year old daughter, and it of course pains me to imagine her being on the receiving end of that treatment someday (and it pains me, for that matter, to think lots of women I care about have had to go through it).

            But if I step back a minute and think about it rationally, I'm tempted to say this is one of those things that's "part of life".  (I'm not of course talking about actual rape here, just to be clear.)  So though it's painful, it's also a learning experience and a component of building an adult perspective on the world.  KWIM?  (Or maybe not--you might well respond to this suggestion with "fuck that noise!")

            Oh, wait, got off on a tangent there and almost forgot about the original issue of life imprisonment.  Let me say a few more things here, including some clarification:

            (1) No doubt, as you have suggested, a lot of these kids have been railroaded.  That sucks completely and must be addressed if we are to have anything approaching actual justice in our justice system.

            (2) Those who were guilty of being accessories, but didn't actually commit the murder, shouldn't get life sentences.  (If they held someone down so their friend could slash the victim's throat, though, that's helping to actually commit the murder in my view.)

            (3) You're right, people's personalities and beliefs change from decade to decade.  But what doesn't change is that their victim is dead.  Someone kills my kids, and then later truly becomes a better person, bully for them.  But my kids are still dead.  

            Look, people make stupid mistakes, or do bad things, that cost them their own lives, and they don't get a "do over".  If their decisions cost an innocent person's life, I think it's irrelevent whether they reform themselves.  They still shouldn't get to come back and walk the streets free when their victims will never get that chance.  They ended someone's life who didn't deserve it--how can it be said they are the real victims if as a result they have to spend their lives incarcerated?  

            Remember, I said I'd be open to their "graduating" (after some period of time of good behaviour) to a facility that could be more like a dormitory than a prison.  They could watch DVDs there, have visitors sleep over, even have wild parties for all I care--just as long as when their guests leave, they don't get to, meaning (a) their victims' loved ones never have to see them, assuming they don't visit the incarceration facility; and (b) just in case they haven't changed as much as we hope, they definitely don't get a chance to kill anyone else on the outside.


    •  you are pointing to (none)
      the somewhere between 10-20% of humans, largely male as it is sex-linked, who suffer from serious psychological states such as psychopathy and sociopathy that make them essentially incapable of adopting society's rules on a voluntary basis. And yes, they can be identified as children. You cannot rehabilitate these people; for some the direct experience and continuing threat, combined with surveillance, of punishment & curtailment of their freedom is sufficient motivation for them to behave within societal bounds. For others, it is not.

      One of the things that vexes me most about the vast majority of penal / justice systems is their inability to produce a clear systemic differentiation and response to uncorrectable pathology and correctable behavioural breakdown. For me, the vast majority of sociopaths & psychopaths of the world need to be identified early and put into appropriate programs, and if it's too late (ie they have committed crime), to be humanely institutionalised. For some that would be for the rest of their lives, for others, it would mean a restricted life with limited freedoms. I am absolutely, categorically against the death penalty.

      Now, if I had any faith whatsoever that the American justice system was making individual, carefully considered assessments of juveniles commmitting serious crime and determining the appropriate course as above, I would find this an intensely grey area. But the evidence is exactly the opposite - that personal circumstances & psychology are rarely thoroughly or appropriately considered.

      On top of that, all the physiological evidence shows that especially for males, even by the age of 21, the part of the brain that allows us to understand and incorporate the consequences of our decisions is not fully developed. IE, as juveniles, both girls and boys, but particularly in boys because it in general takes longer to develop, we are literally biologically incapable of understanding the consequences of our actions.

      This makes the US system of treating juveniles as fully functioning adults an abomination. On top of that, it meters out severe punishment of juveniles, within a highly punitive and vengeful system. And as we can see from other posts, one now largely designed to provide slave labour for large US companies. It's despicable.

      The thoughts of everyone are always with the victims, but  profoundly unjust and unbalanced systemic punishment of juvenile perpertrators does exactly nothing to bring the victims back, or heal a community.

      "This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

      by myriad on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 07:11:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree that this is a problem... (4.00)
    but I don't necessarily have a problem with minors serving life sentences if that's what they deserve.

    That may seem cruel, so let me explain:

    The cases cited above are clearly cases where the kids didn't commit the actual crime of murder themselves. In cases where these kids DO commit murder, and they are mentally stable, and there is irrefutable evidence, AND they've had good representation and the chance to appeal...then I do believe they should (if the crime calls for it) have to serve a life sentence.

    I know that some people think kids don't know any better, but I'm not one of them. Sure, kids make mistakes, but I've seen and met some pretty sadistic and sick kids in my day...who know what crimes they have committed, and who knew that what they were doing was wrong.

    So, I agree we've got definite issues here...and I completely disagree with mandatory sentences of any sort...especially when they are drug-related...but in some cases, perhaps a life sentence is what is necessary.

    •  unfortunately (none)
      according to

      "most of the "criminals" we lock up are poor people who commit nonviolent crimes out of economic need. Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnaping don't even make the top ten....."

      •  I totally agree on this... (none)
        and I think that is the biggest problem. I don't believe that people should go to jail for drugs at all...just rehab. Cops used to harrass us high school kids all the time...and my response to them was always: don't you have actual criminals to tend to?

        Mean, I know...but sometimes I think police need a reminder as to what is important.

    •  I agree (4.00)
      I'm very much against the death penalty and support fairer penalties for most nonviolent crimes.  
      But I don't see anything "barbaric" about putting murderers, whatever their age, in prison for life.
    •  On kids 'knowing better' (4.00)
      If you think that children are as capable as adults of understanding their actions and controlling their impulses, that raises a whole bunch of other issues:

      Shouldn't they be allowed to drive whenever they are physically capable of passing a drivers licence test? Shouldn't they be allowed to purchase alcohol whenever they like, provided it can be shown not to impede their physical and mental growth? Minimum voting ages should be removed, if their decestion making abilities are to be treated as on par with adults. Then there is the whole issue of the parent/child dynamic. Who am I to tell my child when to go to bed, etc. Legally, can they be charged with slander on the playground? Shouldn't all the laws applying to adults now apply to children?

      But if you don't believe that children are fully as capable and culpable as adults, then how then can it be `just' to hold them to an adult standard of punishment?

      The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

      by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:49:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good points...the problem is (none)
        that I would agree with most of those.

        They should be able to drive when deemed physically and mentally prepared to pass a test. They should be able to vote provided they take an exam that proves they have a passable knowledge of the voting process, the Constitution, and U.S. History. And yes, I think they should be able to drink alcohol.

        Of course, I don't have any kids of my own...

        I do have four younger sisters who I basically helped to raise. The youngest is now 17...she's extremely bright and she wanted to vote in 2004. Every one of us started drinking around age 14 or 15 and drinking was pretty much out of my system by the time I was 20. Sure, I still enjoy a good drink now and then, but I'm not wallowing in liquor (unlike a number of people I know who actually followed the law and awaited their 21st birthdays). We all learned to be more responsible at earlier ages because we acted like adults at earlier ages. We didn't get into needless trouble like many other teens whose parents babied them.

        So, I would say that kids are capable of adult-like behavior...and they are capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong. I would argue that any 8 year old knows the difference between right and wrong. They know the consequences of wrong...they break the rules, they deal with the punishment.

        •  From what age? (none)
          The idea that children are simply physically smaller versions of adults inevitably breaks down at some point. If you think an 8 year old that picks up a gun and shoots another child is as responsible for that action as an adult, what about a five year old? Or a three year old?

          And if the three year old is to be cut a little slack on the consequences scale, how come? At some point the physical reality of a child's neurological development has to enter the discussion. And the science on this is pretty clear:

          "The evidence now is strong that the brain does not cease to mature until the early 20s in those relevant parts that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning for the future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that make people morally culpable...."
          Ruben Gur, MD, PhD
          Director, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center
          From: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Juvenile Death Penalty. Adolescence, Brain Development and Legal Culpability. The American Bar Association, Jan 2004

          The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

          by MaggieEh on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 10:34:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well...that's the problem with my assessment (none)
            and I'll admit that. There is no one specific age for all children. As I said above, some children mature faster than others. In an ideal situation each child's maturity on a physical and mental level would be assessed and taken into consideration.

            As for driving, I think 16 seems to be a decent age....and some 15 year olds are allowed to get a license for a job. As for voting. I also believe that 16 should be the age. As for drinking, I would suggest 16 as well. I understand the problem with kids buying other kids alcohol I've heard 19 suggested and I don't think that would be a bad choice either.

            I do believe an 8 year old should know the difference between right and wrong...and if they pick up a gun and shoot someone, then my guess is that their parents are somewhat culpable in that...not that I believe they should serve time, but I think in that situation the entire family probably needs some counseling. I do think there's a correlation between tv/video games and children not being able to discern fantasy from reality. I think that's getting worse for kids today, but I think that's the case because parents and teachers don't explain the difference to kids. When an 8 year old picks up a gun...everyone is responsible in some sense...not that I'm suggesting jail time for everyone...but we certainly need to re-evaluate how and what we are teaching kids.

    •  asdf (4.00)
      Let's look at Jamie Bulger's case that happened in UK in '93.  What happened was two ten-year old boys kidnapped a toddler and killed the guy with extreme brutality.  I'll spare you all the gory details, but you can google it, if you're interested.

      To make a long story short, both were released in 2001 with brand-new identities, since a sizable number of UKers felt a little testy about the sentence imposed.

      Were those two scumbags poster children for the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach?  Damn right.

      While I believe that we, as a society, should strive to rehabilitate as many people as possible, it's worth recognizing those who are beyond help.

      It's really unfortunate that judges have so little sentencing discretion in some states.  That's where we get sentences like life for stealing a beer bottle.

    •  Fur Elise (4.00)
      Thanks Elise! I was wondering if anyone else was going to bring that up (as I did, down below).

      Murder is a hell of a crime, and society demands a hell of a penalty. The James Bulger case in Liverpool (the two ten-year-old boys who tortured and killed a two-year-old over the course of a long afternoon in 1993) illustrated just this point when it came time for the boys to be released a few years later, they had to be relocated and given new identities.

      The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

      by SensibleShoes on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 07:27:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yup (4.00)
    We have the highest percentage of our population in prison of any "advanced" country and as I recollect are exceeded only by South Africa. We kill more people than anywhere else and have some of the most draconian sentences in US history for relatively minor crimes. All because of some hyped up fears about our high crime rate.

    To the rocket scientists out there who invent these rules - the more shit you make illegal, the more crime you will have. The longer you make prison sentences the more people who will be in jail. The harder you make it for ex-cons to work and get jobs, the more likely they will be to commit more crimes. The more you alienate them from society by preventing them from voting the more likely they are to commit more crimes. Ad nauseam.

    This is not just about making society safe anymore. It is class warfare against the working and middle classes.

  •  institutionalized racism (4.00)
    U.S. incarceration rates by race, June 30, 2004:

    Whites: 393 per 100,000
    Latinos: 957 per 100,000
    Blacks: 2,531 per 100,000

    Gender is an important "filter" on the who goes to prison or jail, June 30, 2004:

    Females: 123 per 100,000
    Males: 1,348 per 100,000

    Look at just the males by race, and the incarceration rates become even more frightening, June 30, 2004:

    White males: 717 per 100,000
    Latino males: 1,717 per 100,000
    Black males: 4,919 per 100,000

    If you look at males aged 25-29 and by race, you can see what is going on even clearer, June 30, 2004:

    For White males ages 25-29: 1,666 per 100,000.
    For Latino males ages 25-29: 3,606 per 100,000.
    For Black males ages 25-29: 12,603 per 100,000. (That's 12.6% of Black men in their late 20s.)

    Or you can make some international comparisons:

    South Africa under Apartheid was internationally condemned as a racist society.

    South Africa under apartheid (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000
    U.S. under George Bush (2004), Black males: 4,919 per 100,000

    What does it mean that the leader of the "free world" locks up its Black males at a rate 5.8 times higher than the most openly racist country in the world?


  •  prisoners=cheap labor (4.00)
    "An American worker who once upon a time made $8/hour, loses his job when the company relocates to Thailand where workers are paid only $2/day. Unemployed, and alienated from a society indifferent to his needs, he becomes involved in the drug economy or some other outlawed means of survival. He is arrested, put in prison, and put to work. His new salary: 22 cents/hour.

    "From worker, to unemployed, to criminal, to convict laborer, the cycle has come full circle. And the only victor is big business."


  •  To go one step further the United States (4.00)
    is the only Western Nation that is determined to give a criminal record to each and every kid 18 and younger. We are such a "tough on crime" country that we by far exceed any other nation for the number of under 18 with criminal records. No country in the west ever puts "kids" away for what are minor offenses elsewhere except the U.S. We are a World Wide disgrace.  Shame...

    Offense such as Pot Possesion/Drugs
    Minor theft
    you name it.

    If you are 18 and under you are going to JAIL BABY. You got a RECORD. Beat your chest folks "We are tough on crime"

    Progressives - stay UNDECIDED on 2008

    by AustinSF on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:22:54 PM PDT

  •  Mind Flip (none)
    Let's see...

    Republicans are creating stricter sentencing guidelines that are putting more and more people in jail, and pushing the age at which children are charged as adults lower and lower, so that our population of prison inmates is growing exponentially.  

    SO, the Republicans are creating a growing class of people whose welfare is totally dependent on the government.

    WHILE, the Republicans are loudly decrying the "welfare state", and "socialism", and "entitlements".

    •  And it Costs (none)
      Our society around $35,000 a year to house and feed each of those inmates.  We'd do a whole lot better just to give them that $35,000 a year.  Wanna bet the crime rate would go down?

      Embrace diversity. Not everyone is intelligent.

      by FLDemJax on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:32:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Land of the free (none)
    My ASS
  •  Anyone want to bet... (4.00)
    ...what percentage of the kids are black?

    You expect white America to care if a bunch of young black/latino violent men ever see the light of day?  You think the argument that their brains at the time of the crimes were undeveloped is enough to overcome the stereotypical, racist, scared-shitless idiotic state of this country's citizenry.

    The more knowledgeable I become the more I realize it's not my country that I hate; its it's people.

    Hey Roberts lovers, a link to a CNN story PRIOR to the nomination: Big Biz Draws Up Supreme Court Wish List

    by DWCG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:28:07 PM PDT

  •  How in the hell... (none)
    is something like this allowed to happen (ie/ teenagers who were not 'directly' involved in actual murders themselves)being given LIFE sentences while REPEAT CHILD MOLESTERS (sometimes VIOLENT ONES) are allowed to post bail and often parolled after such PATHETICALLY short amounts of time that it makes you want to SCREAM.

    These KIDS in some cases, that have a chance at being rehabilitated vs. VIOLENT, TWISTED SICK INDIVIDUALS that prey on children.

    What in the hell is happening to common sense in the country?  

    An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind--Gandhi (-9.38, -7.59)

    by hopefulcanadian on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:30:23 PM PDT

  •  This post also illustrates the absurdity of felony (none)
    murder.  The crime of "felony murder" should be abolished, or at a minimum it should not be made equivilant to the crime of 1st degree murder, particularly when it comes to accomplices.  Malice-aforethought should not simply be allowed to be inferred from criminal intent to commit an offense other than murder.
  •  It's as a simple as this... (4.00)
    Americans are supposed to be tough, based on the popular memes peddled in our media. Compassion is for pussies (I'm stating it in the terms that would be used, not that I would agree with), although we supposedly are Christian Nation, according to the Evangelban; Of course, they only want this historical sadistic part of their religion enshrined, not anything to do with that "Jesus" guy. What a wimp he was!

    It's another third rail in politics. You want to look "soft" on crime? Haven't you been paying attention, the right has been demonizing and trying to criminalize caring. If they are going to enact their inhumane agenda, they must first strip us of our humanity. Hell, they've already started up the torture chambers. How long until anyone who disagrees with them becomes an enemy of the state?

    I think, in this regard, this is a way that Democrats could bring in Christian teachings into their campagins. Now, I'm not saying they should, and I am somewhere between an agnostic and a deist, but the left currently doesn't make the rules. We have to fight by the rules that the media has allowed the right to push. So, as such, I'm all for beating them with their own rules. Now, I'm not saying we should "use" religion like the right does. What I'm saying is, religion is actually on our side, just like truth. So let's tell the truth about it. Let's allow the Democrats, just like Bill Clinton is, talk about their faith, if they feel they need to. I will never stop believing in separation of church and state, but some of the main points of Christianity are compassion and forgiveness. It's time to call them on it. Deeds, not words.

    It's time to call Americans on their cowardice, each and every one of us. Placing people in lock up and throwing away the key is just a cowardly and lazy way to operate a society. When the GOP ran in 2000, they were right. We do need to get grown-ups back into the White House. Because the people in there now are like a bunch of overgrown two year olds that could contemplate of pushing the button as "Fun." Immoral sadistic sociopaths now run the asylum the U.S. government has become in the hands of the GOP.

    •  I have tried this approach... (none)
      that you are suggesting and my experience has been that it is not very effective as it ticks off people on the left and the right doesn't really care so while it may work with some, I don't think it has broad enough appeal.

      "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by RichardG on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:56:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is no common concept of rehabilitation (none)
    The public does not buy into the idea of rehabilitating criminals. We only hear the stories of the ones that are "let out" and then repeat offend. Those are failures.

    We only use "rehabilitation" and "corrections" as euphemisms in common parlance. Anyone professing a faith in that concept is considered "soft on crime" and a hazard.

    Generally, we find criminals to be expendable, as even rehabilitated they rarely create enough value in the economy to make the news. Martha Stewart is a recent exception. Most of these exceptions are able to obtain defense that can overwhelm a publicly funded prosecution (cf OJ Simpson) and are thus not in the "criminal" category anyway.

    The press thus finds little need or benefit to drive the narrative toward success stories. Only if someone should rise from a life of crime to be newsworthy on their own will success stories generally be reported, much less noticed. Most individuals are embarassed about their record and don't volunteer the information. In some cases, doing so could be a bad influence.

    So the public is left with an ingrained notion that rehabilitation is futile and the best thing to do is "remove the problem." If this were universally true, and if mistrials and mistaken identities were rare to the point of extinction, some could genuinely wonder why we maintain these lives at all, at taxpayer expense. Neither of those premises are in fact even close to true, and generally only the second premise is even considered "speakable" politically.

    Rehabilitation is something that is incumbent on society to master. 9/11, Oklahoma City, and Columbine may provide us with a more potent rationale than basic morality or economic arguments.

    The war on terrorism must be won first and foremost in the mind. An effective and humane rehabilitation methodology would provide us confidence to not only recognize the warning signs of individuals at risk for violence, but to do something about it.

    Terrorism is thankfully rare. But we have thousands of examples of other sociopathic behavior in the field. We can respectfully and positively work with these people to better understand the signs, sources, and treatment of these conditions.

    The economic argument for rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of less spectacular criminals thus must be balanced against the ledger entries for terrorist attacks. At that point, the case can be made for the massive investment that will be required.

    The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

    by peeder on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 03:47:08 PM PDT

  •  Construction companies write tough-on-crime laws (none)
    Because the Prison Industry is a Revenue-Generating Opportunity, prison construction companies pay well for a chance to influence legislation by writing model bills for tough-on-crime politicians to enact.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council -- ALEC for short -- is not well known to the general public and doesn't try to be. But the organization, founded in the early 1970s, boasts of helping to pass hundreds of state laws every year: From tax cuts to loosened environmental regulations to longer prison sentences.
    More than a third of the nation's state lawmakers -- 2400 of them -- are members of ALEC. Most are Republicans and conservative Democrats. ALEC says its mission is to promote free markets, small government, states' rights, and privatization. Members gather at ALEC meetings to swap ideas and form "model legislation." Legislators then take those "model" bills home and try to make them state law.
    In forming and spreading its ideas, ALEC gets help from corporate leaders. More than a hundred companies co-sponsor ALEC conferences -- including Turner, a construction giant and the nation's number one builder of prisons; and Wackenhut Corrections, a private prison corporation.

    Another 200 companies and interest groups join ALEC as "private-sector members." They pay dues for the privilege of helping to write ALEC's model bills.

    The result is corporate-sponsored legislation, says Edwin Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics. "Bayer Corporation or Bell South or GTE or Merck pharmaceutical company sitting at a table with elected representatives, actually hammering out a piece of legislation -- behind closed doors, I mean, this isn't open to the public. And that then becomes the basis on which representatives are going to their state legislatures and debating issues."

    ALEC's corporate members include at least a dozen companies that do prison business. Like Dupont; the drug companies, Merck and Glaxo Smith-Klein; and the telephone companies that compete for lucrative prison contracts. And Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). It dominates the private prison business -- building and running prisons and renting cells to governments. At last count the company housed 55,000 inmates in 65 facilities in twenty-one states and Puerto Rico, says CCA Vice President Louise Green.
    But CCA [also] pays two thousand dollars a year for a seat on ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force. That panel writes the group's "model" bills on crime and punishment. Until recently, a CCA official even co-chaired the task force. For years, ALEC's criminal justice committee has promoted state laws letting private prison companies operate. And at least since the early 1990s, it has pushed a tough-on-crime agenda.
    Among ALEC's model bills: mandatory minimum sentences; Three Strikes laws, giving repeat offenders 25 years to life in prison; and "truth-in-sentencing," which requires inmates to serve most or all of their time without a chance for parole. ALEC didn't invent any of these ideas but has played a pivotal role in making them law in the states, says Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

    "By ALEC's own admission in its 1995 Model Legislation Scorecard, they were very successful. They had introduced 199 bills [that year]. The Truth-in-Sentencing Act had become law in 25 states, so that right there is fairly significant."

    By the late 1990s, about forty states had passed versions of truth-in sentencing similar to ALEC's model bill. Because of truth-in-sentencing and other tough sentencing measures, state prison populations grew by half a million inmates in the 1990s even while crime rates fell dramatically.

    The result: more demand for private prison companies like CCA.

    I'm reminded of Larry Niven's future dystopia sci-fi works in which bio-medical advances in organ harvesting and transplant allow people to extend their lives indefinitely, so long as the supply of organs doesn't run out, and as a result society eventually approves a death penalty (followed by organ harvesting, natch) for running a red light. Something about American society's tolerance for self-interest and corporate profits above all rings a bell.

    There are more links from the site above, including articles titled The Cops' Share and California Prison Guards.

    Connect the dots. Follow the money.

    The sleep of reason produces monsters. Francisco Goya

    by Dire Radiant on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 04:29:16 PM PDT

  •  As a society (none)
    we have made an appropriate, but somewhat arbitrary decision that children become adults at 18. Like most kos readers, I used to be a child. I have children of my own. And I know, beyond any doubt, that every one is different. Some are mature as adults at 16, and others not until they reach 20 or even older. Certainly we don't hold 6 year olds to the same standards as adults. Some appropriate age has to be chosen, and 18 seems as reasonable as any. But yet it makes no sense to automatically prosecute those younger than 18, as adults, for only the most heinous of crimes. A 16 year old is a child when they shoplift a candybar. Yet they are an adult when they murder. Where is the logic in that? Maybe they are. Maybe not. But automatically charging and treating minors as adults for the worst crimes, without regards to any adult/child debate is absurd. It is time for this issue to return to calm thoughtful public debate, without emotional rhetoric.
  •  Who is Brandon Hein? (none)
    Brandon Hein has been sitting in a California prison for over 10 years now for a crime he didn't commit with no chance for parole.  His case has been taken up by no less than Alan Dershowitz, Geraldo Rivera, Tom Hayden, and Charles Grodin, who even wrote a play, "The Prosecution of Brandon Hein".

    Arnold Schwarzenegger could commute this sentence in about 15 seconds if he just could find the time between magazine endorsements and signing movie deals.  This story is an atrocity and we all should be ashamed of our country for these actions.  

    I think he's exhausted all appeals and they've even quit updating his website these last few months.  

  •  Excuse me but I was present (none)
    at one of the crimes committed by one of those 2000 "children". He was 15. The boy he killed was also 15. The man he killed was the father of a 16-year-old girl.

    Yeah, he's serving a life sentence, but so are the loved ones of the people he chose to sentence to death.

    Flame away.

    The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

    by SensibleShoes on Wed Oct 12, 2005 at 07:17:31 PM PDT

    •  I'm sure some people deserve these sentences (none)
      I think the problem is the lack of flexibility and discretion. Mandatory sentences (e.g. 3 strikes and your out) are a "one size fits all" approach that is unfair to the variation in individual circumstances.

      Isn't sentencing discretion one reason we have judges in the first place?

      Does anyone think Bush will ever catch bin Ladin?

      by Danjuma on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 03:59:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  re: "at the scene of the murder" (none)
    First off, I'm against the death penalty, especially since there are circumstances that allow it to be used in flat-out non-capital offenses, and excessive punishment in general.

    That being noted, I hate the negative connotation of "bleeding heartism" and how it's become a liability of liberalism, and would describe my stance on crime & punishment as "tough but fair."

    So, back to the topic head...the laws for being on the scene of a murder really are necessary at times, and even then wind up being insufficient.

    The Ohio contingent on the board would likely be familiar with the case I'm about to mention...

    A kid who was a leading running back for a championship team and had a D1 scholarship in hand was with his teammates and other friends, and one was shot.  There was lots of mourning and most people, at least on the outside, said the first kid was a good kid and everything (although there were some questions about whether he'd still qualify with grades.)

    Then the first kid was arrested and the "good kid" tone changed...evidence accumulated that the kid who was shot pulled a real-looking toy gun first (if I remember right,) so the other guy who shot him was only charged on self-defense (except for a firearm license violation.)  Still sounds strange, BUT the thing is the star running back had been leading a robbery/drug ring that had gone bad.  Moreover, it was hardly the first time he acted as a ringleader, only the first time something led him to get caught.  That's because they had been waiting outside high-stake poker games and mugging the winners, and of course if you've been gambling you can't report a crime like that without effectively turning yourself in.

    Due to the "felony murder rule" this could've been up to, if I remember right, 20 years in prison (but provisions prevented the death penalty,) and given the circumstances he deserved no less than 3-5.  Ultimately, what it came down to was that a plea-bargain allowed him to get 5 years probation, and a suspended sentence provided he maintained a C average in college.  He may even see the field at the D1 college he attended, I'm pretty sure.

    Needless to say, this is a slap on the wrist even with the law, and incidently the sentence was largely a result of a legitimate "activist judge," so it goes back to answer the question of whether there are always just "good kids" who happen to be stuck on the scene.

    Basically all of this information is verifiable (like I said, the other Ohio posters might be familiar with this and even know the names; I decided to leave them out.)  I could go on and on with the story and other (verifiable) details, but that's not the point...another point is that I'm glad my parents wouldn't let me stay out in the inner-city at 3 am.

  •  Maybe America deserves Bush (none)
    We certainly don't deserve the good that God has allowed us. Our nation has failed.
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