Thursday, July 26, 2012

Redeeming Kids Who Commit Heinous Crimes

On June 25th, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that laws requiring children under the age of 18 convicted of murder to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the 8th amendment regarding "cruel and unusual punishment". The ruling was decided upon two precedents: Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller. Kuntrell Jackson was only 14 when he and two other older boys attempted to rob an Arkansas video store in 1999 and one of the youths killed a store clerk at the video store. Evan Miller, who I mentioned in an earlier post, beat up a 52 year old neighbor, and subsequently set his neighbor's house on fire with the neighbor still inside. The neighbor died of smoke inhalation.

In 2009, statistics showed that 1,906,600 juveniles were arrested for the year. Of those juveniles, 85,890 of them were convicted from "violent crimes" including forcible rape, murder, non negligent manslaughter, robbery, and aggravated assault. Of these crimes, a large percentage of the convicted criminals will receive a hefty sentence, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty. But, if a criminal is lucky enough to be under the age of 18 when he or she commits a heinous crime, the convicted crime  will see the sun shine outside from outside the confinement of a jail cell. A simple wag of the finger by the government and a probation period to ensure "they learned their lesson" and that murderer/rapist/felon will live amongst our children, grandchildren, and their friends and family. What does this ruling mean for the future of Texans? It means that people like Dylan Klebold, a 17 year old boy who was one of the perpetrators of the Columbine high school shooting massacre, and Jeffrey Weise, the 16 year old gunman of the Red Lake massacre, will never be faced with the sentencing of life imprisonment. The Supreme Court justices theorized that juveniles brains are too different from adults to be dealt the same consequences. They say a juvenile's brain is underdeveloped and is incapable to rational understanding. A juvenile commits reckless, impulsive, and rash behavior without fully understanding the consequences of his or her's actions. However, I refuse to believe that Dylan Klebold and Jeffrey Weise didn't "understand the consequences of their actions". They knew exactly what they were doing and why it was malicious and hateful. Dylan Klebold didn't commit suicide in the library of Columbine high school because he didn't understand why he would be convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. Klebold committed suicide because he knew exactly what he did wrong, how the law would act to prosecute him, and thought the best way out of his situation was suicide. To assume that juvenile's commit these crimes solely due to their undeveloped brain and irrational behavior is to deny the truth that, perhaps, this child has inner demons battling within them and needs attention right away.

And what does this say to these juveniles that need help before committing another massacre killing a number of innocent people? This ruling suggests that whatever he or she may do, whether that be murder, rape, or aggravated assault, at least they'll never face extreme punishment until they are of legal age. If a juvenile knows how to use a gun, a knife, or his or her's fist to take away the life of someone just as well as an adult, that juvenile should face the same exact punishment that an adult would be prosecuted with. If a Texas juvenile can get a job, have a baby, and give consent to have sex before the age of 18, it is fair to assume that they are capable of reasoning and behaving like an adult, and should therefore, be treated fairly as an adult. This ruling concerns not only the environment of our society by allowing these criminals to walk amongst us in a matter of time, this ruling concerns how juveniles perceive the criminal justice system as a weak, fragile, and broken back towards juveniles and their "crazy behavior".

Monday, July 23, 2012

Republican Blogger Doesn't Approve of Democratic Spending in Austin.. What Else is New?

On July 15th, 2012,  Michele Samuelson published an article on the Empower Texas blog regarding Austin's new plan to build a bike bridge. Samuelson argues that the spending for the bridge is unnecessary and frivolous and, ultimately, a significant waste of money. Samuelson concludes that the  $10.5 million bike bridge is "the essence of fiscal mismanagement" and that nobody is better at "spending  boondoggles" than Austin's city council. 

I can only hope that people understand that the role of the government is supposed to "represent" the people that are affiliated with the local government. If anybody were to "stereotype" an Austin resident, you'd paint a portrait of a bike rider that complains about the lack of bike lanes within a city. The idea of Austin's city council deciding to build a bike lane for a significant population living within the boundaries of Austin is sound and absolutely not outlandish. It is the role of the local government to listen to its residents and adjust accordingly to the needs expressed by the inhabitants. Of course any fiscal Republican is going to find this spending to be obsolete and ridiculous, it's in their fiscally-responsible blood. The intended audience for the article was Republicans living within the state of Texas or, more specifically, Austin, and it's evident that Samuelson is catering to what every Republican wants to hear: Democrats are incapable of properly managing money. However, Samuelson failed to consider the desires of Austin residents. The spending on this bridge is not only smart, but expected. For instance, if you have a community of residents living within your city that loves to swim in public pools, you'd take the necessary measures to ensure the pools are clean, well-staffed, and enjoyable to the large population that benefits from using the pool. Similarly, if you have a large biking population in Austin, it should be automatic to ensure they have the necessary roads and safety precautions to cater to their lifestyle. After all, doesn't Lance Armstrong reign here? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Second Chances are Often Regretted

An editorial was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012 concerning the Supreme Court's ruling that state laws mandating that defendants younger than 18 years old that are convicted of murder be sentenced to life in prison, without the option of parole is cruel and unusual punishment, violating the 8th amendment. The author of the editorial believes this to be a good decision, due to the fact that scientific studies show that a juvenile's brain shows a significant lack of deeper understanding and impulsive and reckless behavioral tendencies. The Supreme Court's decision was based on the studies showing that juvenile's often fail to thoroughly think through their consequences and their maturity level, response to peer pressure and their family background. The author agrees with the Supreme Court, the juvenile's brain is too unpredictable, rapidly changing, and quickly adapting.

 However, in my opinion, even if you are 7 or 9, children know that murder is wrong. In the case of Evan Miller, a 14 year old kid that beat up a 52 year old neighbor with a bat and set his neighbor's house on fire, I don't believe that Evan simply was "too young to understand the consequences of his actions". Although Evan had a very tough, sad, and extreme child hood which no one should every be raised in, he is old and wise enough to understand that murder is morally impermissible and unacceptable unless it falls under the scope of self-defense. His brain may be young, impulsive and reckless but that is no excuse to allow this individual to be let loose in the wild with a slap on the wrist and a stern "talking to". His actions speak louder than the apologies and regret he may express, and if any individual is capable of taking another person's life, they should be treated as an adult for their unlawful actions. I don't agree with the Supreme Court's ruling, it's allowing unfair treatment for children that demonstrate equally heinous behavior as adult without nearly the same consequences. Yes, as the author mentioned, if you imprison a child below 18 for life sentence without a chance of parole, that deprives the child of every experiencing life in this world. However, if we, as a nation, have the opportunity to deal punishment equally to children as we would with adults, this would deter children from committing morally impermissible crimes and blame it on a lack of deep understanding. It doesn't take the brain capacity needed to learn rocket science to understand when someone is dead, unable to regain consciousness and breathe another breath, children can skate through the criminal justice system free of any real consequences or punishment due to age. I assert that we treat them fairly, you are dealt what you deal. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Consequences of Governor Perry's Iron Fist

After the monumental decision of the Supreme Court upholding most of Obama's health care reform as constitutional, Governor Rick Perry quickly released a statement clarifying that Texas would choose not to abide by the health care law. KXAN released an article, "Big downside to saying no to health law," which pertains to the consequences of choosing to not implement the law within the boundaries of Texas. The already 1.3 million Texans that are currently uninsured would rise in number. Also, some middle class benefits wouldn't be available for Texans that qualify. Hospitals operating in Texas wouldn't receive funding provided by the government and without their funding, they'd be forced to close programs. Essentially, we'd be paying for a benefit that we wouldn't receive, our funding will go to a state that chooses to adhere to the law.

Whether we, as Texans, agree or disagree with the health care law there are consequences for either side. This health care law is extremely important and relevant for what it entails, a major change that the United States has never encountered before. It is critical to be aware of the major changes around the nation, but as well as here, in Texas. This article details the possible outcomes that could occur if Texas stands by its decision to opt-out of the law, a law that would affect each and every Texan. Governor Rick Perry's decision echoes the voices of many Texan residents that advocate for smaller government, limited government funded social programs, and an individualistic view point. However, the cries of the 1.3 million Texans that are uninsured will also echo from the East and West boundaries of Texas.