I came across an article that made my blood boil and made me question just how far we have come as a society.As you can guess from the title of this post that it deals with children.The treatment of children that we will get into shortly, is enought to raise your blood pressure,but what drove me up the wall was the oblivious assumption that this treatment is based on. What also caused me to raise an eyebrow,was the fact that of all the nations in the world and in the United Nations, only the United States and Somalia have refused to sign on to a particular policy. This policy is Article 37 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.Wondering just what was it that the United States found so objectionable in Article 37,I went online and read what it said. Now this article prohibits the detention of children except as a last resort and for the shortest appropiate period of time. It also prohibits the toture & other creul,inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.Of course this part dealt with the treatment of refugee's. Then in the section on the rights of children,it states that children are to be protected from child abuse,neglect,exploitation cruelty and abuse in the criminal justice system.After reading the whole document, I could see how some of the language in the section could raise concern that it would require the United States to forego some of it's sovereignty.But to be in lockstep with Somalia,that is a little to much.
Now here is a fact about the state of the juvenlie justice system in the United States. We are the only nation on the planet that allows children under the age of 18 to be sentence to life in prison without the possissibility of parole. At the present time there are 2,574 children serving this sentence for crimes committed before the age of 18. We as a society have said that they are basically throwaway kids and the only thing they will know is the inside of a prison.This seems to fly in the face of what we know is fact in the development of a child's brain,and decision making skills.Let me give you a brief overview on how the juvenlie justice system came about and developed in this country.
Before 1900 children who were convicted of crimes were sent to prison with adults.Then with the beginning of the progessive era between 1900-1918,the states began establishing youth reforms that embelished the idea that society had the responsibilty to help children recover from what was seem as poor upbringing, so that the state was in fact acting in "parens patriae" or as the parent or guardian of the child.Thus was born the juvenlie justice system that was basically a civil court rather than a criminal one.If it was decided that the child needed to be locked up in order to receive treatment, the confindment only lasted until 21 at the latest.Then in 1967 & 1969 the Surpreme Court said that juvenlie's were entitled to due process under the 5th and 14th admenment of the Consitution. So juvenile court stated to take on a criminal justice look.With a steep rise in juvenlie crime in the late 1980's and the mid 1990's the public started taking notice of juvenlie crimes. Then a series of school shootings and other horrendous offenses cause the public to fear a new breed of juvenlie superpredators was being born. To combat this states begin lowering the age in which juvenlie's could be tried as adults.Some states lowered the age to as low as 10 years.And with the mandatory sentenceing laws,the judges had no choice but to sentence any child who was convited to life in prison without the possibility of parole.The perfect storm for the juvenlie justice system.
Can you spot the flaw in the assumptions that the juvenlie justice system is operating under.It easy,the assumption is that the child is fully functioning and can make decisions based on the full knowledge of what society expects. However science has shown us that a child's brain is not fully developed,nor is their impluse control.Since we know that this is true how can we expect them to act like adults. kids kill for a variety of reasons,including prolong emotional or physical/sexual abuse,brain damage or mental illiness received from drug addicated mothers.
Charles Manson,"Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz were sentence to life in prison but with the possibility of parole.If we can give killers like this the hope of freedom,how can we say a child killer cannot be saved.There are kids that society needs to be protected from,but at the same time we must administer to the needs of our kids.I know what I believe,but the question is what do you believe?