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Thread: Kids doing life behind bars? Thoughts?

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Kids doing life behind bars? Thoughts?

    America has 2,000 young offenders serving life terms in jail
    By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
    Published: 12 October 2005
    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.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    I don't think you should be tried as an adult until you're 16 or 17; it shouldn't be automatic, but the DA should have to petition to have you tried as an adult; and I don't think anyone younger than 16 should ever get a life sentence, and nobody under 18 should ever get a death sentence.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I'm with you. I'm not sure how people can impose those sorts of punishments on youngsters. It seems so Dickens to me.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
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    Elite Member sweetrebel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by disruptivehair View Post
    I don't think you should be tried as an adult until you're 16 or 17; it shouldn't be automatic, but the DA should have to petition to have you tried as an adult; and I don't think anyone younger than 16 should ever get a life sentence, and nobody under 18 should ever get a death sentence.
    Why not? If a 16 year old walked up to your mother and blew her brains out-
    what should happen to him? Probation? Mental hospital? A long prison term?
    do you want him back out on the streets after 10 years in prison? Even more evil than when he went in? Prison does not rehabilitate people. Any one who would kill someone once would do it again.
    If I killed someone in a jealous rage-that part of me that would take another life does not go away IMO-it's always there...
    Some of the laws may need to be changed like for burglary and such, but murder--no.

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    I think it might be better to get to the root of the problem, which is a seriously screwed up prison system. We're extremely big on being punative but not terribly into being helpful. When compared to other western countries, the prison numbers in America read like an evil dictatorships. It's really frightening that the whole focus is on punishment, rather than trying to make society better. And yup, I'm a bleeding heart liberal and do not think locking people up and throwing away the key is the answer. And no, I really don't think a 60 year old should be in jail doing time for a crime he/she committed at age 13 or 16. That's absurd.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Gold Member barbiedoll25's Avatar
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    I think if you do the crime, do the time. Too bad if your home life, childhood was messed up. I don't sympathize with that. There are millions of children who have had f'ed up childhoods and don't go around killing people. THey should get off easy b/c they are young? NO!! They are at an age where they can differantiate between what's wrong and what's right. There was a case in Pontiac Michigan (near my old hometown) where a 13 or 14 yr old killed a pregnant woman ( stabbed her in the stomach!) b/c he wanted to steal her car. Something like that, sorry he can rot in jail the rest of his life!

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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetrebel View Post
    Why not? If a 16 year old walked up to your mother and blew her brains out-
    what should happen to him? Probation? Mental hospital? A long prison term?
    do you want him back out on the streets after 10 years in prison? Even more evil than when he went in? Prison does not rehabilitate people. Any one who would kill someone once would do it again.
    If I killed someone in a jealous rage-that part of me that would take another life does not go away IMO-it's always there...
    Some of the laws may need to be changed like for burglary and such, but murder--no.

    I'd expect a very long prison sentence. If you are 16, you are old enough to know better. Unless you're insane, there's no excuse. And I don't count people who are under the influence of drugs as "insane."

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    Yeah, drug-fueled crime is a tough one. I think I'm probably very much in the minority here but I think if someone is that young, there might actually be a chance to set them on a different path. To be honest, I'm kind of scared by what I see as a general attitude in the States of supporting punishment over rehabilitation. I mean, do we want to just keep throwing in the towel on people and believing in the inherent evilness of people, rather than at least trying to see that most people are not inherently bad and that, despite mistakes, some can be set on a better path in life. Soppy, bleeding heart liberalism of the old school, I know, but when I see the attitude of lock 'em up and throw away the key, I wonder how far we really are from chopping off people's hands for stealing. *I now run and duck in fear of the verbal bitch-slapping I know is coming my way...arrrgggghhhhh*
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    Yeah, drug-fueled crime is a tough one. I think I'm probably very much in the minority here but I think if someone is that young, there might actually be a chance to set them on a different path. To be honest, I'm kind of scared by what I see as a general attitude in the States of supporting punishment over rehabilitation. I mean, do we want to just keep throwing in the towel on people and believing in the inherent evilness of people, rather than at least trying to see that most people are not inherently bad and that, despite mistakes, some can be set on a better path in life. Soppy, bleeding heart liberalism of the old school, I know, but when I see the attitude of lock 'em up and throw away the key, I wonder how far we really are from chopping off people's hands for stealing. *I now run and duck in fear of the verbal bitch-slapping I know is coming my way...arrrgggghhhhh*

    No, I agree. Some people can be rehabilitated, but some can't. I just wish there was a better way to identify those we could save, but then you'd have people complaining that we're not giving EVERYONE a chance, then the law-and-order types will come in bitching that prison is a punishment, not a summer camp...etc, etc.

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    A*O
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    A good example of the dilemma would be the infamous Jamie Bulger case in the UK. Sorry if the details are wrong, but basically two boys, aged 10 and 11 (?), abducted 4yr old Jamie from a shopping mall and tortured and killed him in the most brutal way. They were below the legal age of responsibility but were tried anyway and sentenced to life incarceration first at a juvenile detention centre and later in an adult prison. After about 12(?) years they were released on parole, given new ID's and rumour has it they now live in New Zealand.
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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A*O View Post
    A good example of the dilemma would be the infamous Jamie Bulger case in the UK. Sorry if the details are wrong, but basically two boys, aged 10 and 11 (?), abducted 4yr old Jamie from a shopping mall and tortured and killed him in the most brutal way. They were below the legal age of responsibility but were tried anyway and sentenced to life incarceration first at a juvenile detention centre and later in an adult prison. After about 12(?) years they were released on parole, given new ID's and rumour has it they now live in New Zealand.

    Sounds about right; this article has more details:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Bulger

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    Elite Member sweetrebel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by disruptivehair View Post
    Sounds about right; this article has more details:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Bulger
    But wouldn't you have to have some serious mental problems to torture anyone? Let alone a 4 year old child. My question would be what treament did they get in prison?
    Maybe my answers are based on what my opinion of prison must be like. Alone most of the day locked up in a cell...told when to eat, shit, and shower...possible rape and having your ass kicked all the time...learning that to survive you have to be the meanes m.fer in there...
    How does this make you a better person? IMO most of the time you just learn how to be a meaner person...
    I don't know, but I do know that everyone should be held accountable for their actions-regardless of age...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetrebel View Post
    But wouldn't you have to have some serious mental problems to torture anyone? Let alone a 4 year old child. My question would be what treament did they get in prison?
    Maybe my answers are based on what my opinion of prison must be like. Alone most of the day locked up in a cell...told when to eat, shit, and shower...possible rape and having your ass kicked all the time...learning that to survive you have to be the meanes m.fer in there...
    How does this make you a better person? IMO most of the time you just learn how to be a meaner person...
    I don't know, but I do know that everyone should be held accountable for their actions-regardless of age...

    Don't get shirty with me, I never said I agreed with how the Bulger killers were treated.

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    Elite Member sweetrebel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by disruptivehair View Post
    Don't get shirty with me, I never said I agreed with how the Bulger killers were treated.
    And I didn't say you agreed-I used the quote so if someone posted in between people would know what I was talking about...just cause I used a quote doesn't necessarily mean I was speaking directly to you...sheesh

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    OMG, I just read the story of the murder of that little boy, that's HORRIBLE!!! Wtf, I think I'm sick >.<
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