Monday, May 17, 2010

Kid Criminals MIGHT Get a 2nd Chance!

Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles who commit crimes in which no one is killed can no longer be sentenced to life sentences without chance of parole.

You know that song that starts off Oh happy day! Oh happy dayyyyy.... Yeah, I'm singing that in my head right now. This has been a beef of mine for a long time. We know that people's brains, especially their frontal lobe - aka the rational decision-making portion - isn't fully formed until your early to mid-20s. Yet, we are more than willing to certify juvenile criminals as adults and throw them in a cell forever.

I have had the chance to deal with numerous youth who were facing such punishments. These kids, at the age of 13, 14, 15, 16, did terrible things: murder, rape, aggravated assault. I'm not saying these kids should go without punishment, but humans can live a really long time and are we really okay with sending a person to prison for a crime they committed when they were a child for upwards of 60, 70, or 80 years?

REALLY?!

Until Monday, that was a viable option that was actually employed here in the United States. In this 5-4 decision, the opinion of the court fell barely on the side of the children. The ruling expanded a principle the court has never endorsed outside the death penalty — that an entire class of offenders may be immune from a given form of punishment.

I always tell people who dismiss juvenile crime as a waste of the government's time and resources that a 16 year old can kill you just as dead as a 26 year old. The criminal mindset, we know through study, can take hold in the first 3-5 years of life. Sure, murder at 16 or 17 years of age could very well be an indicator that a youth is going to be a lifetime revolving figure of the court system, but it is by no means a guarantee or a hard and fast rule.

While this new law doesn't encompass murder, it does become an umbrella for all other crimes. So we no longer can punish a kid forever, because his id was a overactive and his superego hadn't had time to develop properly. However, the New York Times reports that advocates of this law may attempt to apply it as precedent for the over 2,000 current inmates that committed murder while under the age of 17.

What do YOU think about the Supreme Court's ruling? Is it fair? Is it bullshit? Let me know by leaving a comment, sending an email to IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com, or tweeting me @IncitingARiot!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

5 comments:

  1. Pagan Flavored AtheistMay 17, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    It has always concerned me that our criminal justice system has slowly been backing away from common sense and long term thinking.

    I would love to have some information about how our criminal justice system views, deals with, and institutes corrections. I am of the belief that many criminals are reformable but I have no hard data to back that up.

    Some kids are sociopaths, don't get me wrong but life in prison without parole or life in prison period is absurd.

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  2. I think this is perfectly fair. Adults are fairly set in their ways, but a juvenile offender still has his/her entire life in which to change. Anything more than 20 years or so for someone that young is ludicrous--and anyway, isn't the point of a juvenile detention center to rehabilitate young people so they DON'T commit the same crimes again as adults?

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  3. A big problem I can see with trying to rehabilitate young offenders is that they haven't lived a normal childhood.

    Take the case of the Jamie Bulger killers (some might not be familiar with this, its a UK story) 2 young boys (10 and 12 I think) killed another young child.
    They were sentenced and did not have any kind of normal childhood. They were punished everyday and I'm not saying they didn't deserve punishment but when you find out on of those boys has grown into a child sex offender I can't help but wonder if his crime stuck him at age 12 forever.
    I wonder if his crime, subsequent imprisonment and punishment had the most profound affect on him. Let's face it. His crime might be all he knows. He might not know love, tolerance or any of the good stuff your average child is brought up with.

    I agree with goth-is-not-emo with regards to not locking child offenders up and throwing away the key.
    But I think a child needs to be treated differently to an adult offender in an adult prison. An environment with a strict regime, lessons, surrounded by other criminals, guards and cells just is not a good place for young people to develop into reasonable adults.

    Especially when they know, full well, that they are lacking in areas (some of which may be relationship formation, academic understanding etc) While not all children (regardless of whether they're an offender or not) have these things, most do have loving families.

    I fear I've gone off on a bit of a rant so I'll pop a bit more on my blog instead :)

    xxx Aria

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  4. My biggest, oh so stupidiest, mistake. The man I mentioned has not been charged with any further offence but has been remanded in custody following allegations of child sex offences.
    Realised I worded what I said above totally wrong.
    xxx Aria

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  5. Well personally I think this is a great piece of news and I'm hoping that it might serve as a wedge to end the practice of giving life in prison to juveniles for murder as well.

    The problem with American society seems to be that we really really don't deal with gray areas very well, if at all.

    So many people have a overly simplistic either/or view regarding children. They wish to believe that children are these innocent little creatures, full of nothing but sunshine and fairy farts. So when a child comes along that commits rape, or murder, or other horribleness, the level of shock and outrage is ten fold stronger. Some people feel personally betrayed. So they don't question when such a child is given a life sentence. After all if the child is a monster than what kind of monster will the adult be.

    However as you've pointed up it's nowhere near that simple. A child is not fully developed. They simply don't think the way adults do.

    This can be bad enough when it is a child from a background where money is not an issue. But when you add an environment where parents are absent often not because they want to be but simply because providing for the child demands it, and often it seems that you have kids with precious little parental intervention or over sight. Add to that a culture that sometimes seems to encourage our worst, most base instincts, and it's a very bad combination.

    Sadly I don't know even with the sentence no longer being life in prison, if exposure to our so called justice system is going to do anything helpful for most child offenders.

    Peace
    And
    Long
    Life

    What is The Threefold Path?

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