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".

1 comment:

  1. The Supreme Court ruling did not eliminate life sentences for children who commit crimes, it only ruled out life sentences without the possibility of parole. The United States constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment and the Supreme Court ruled that life without parole for minors constitutes this. This decision was most likely influenced by the precedent the Supreme Court set when it banned the death penalty for people under the age of 18 as well as banned life without parole for juveniles found guilty of non-homicides. In essence, this ruling broadens the scope of previous rulings.
    In your post, you wrote that juveniles will be given a “simple wag of the finger by the government and a probation period” but that is not the case. Minors who commit crimes will still be fully punished for their actions. In the case of capital murder, the sentence will still likely be life imprisonment. However, that life imprisonment will now garner some hope for children with the possibility of parole.
    When somebody is under 18, they are still developing. Their mind and body are still evolving. Everyone in their lives make mistakes. Some mistakes are greater than others, such as if a minor kills somebody else. But what message does it send to a minor when the government locks them up and throws the key away. In a blink of an eye, they see their whole life disappear. Now that they are in prison, they see no reason to become a better person. Without the possibility of parole, they would have no reason to change. They are much more likely to become a more dangerous and violent person in prison. However, with the possibility of parole, they have a reason to become better.
    Parole is not something that is granted easily. In order for a prisoner to be let out of prison, they must prove they are a rehabilitated person. In the case of murder, there are minimum prison terms that must be served before parole is even considered. With these, minors who commit murder will still see a majority of their life wasted away in a prison cell. But now that the Supreme Court has realized that life without parole for minors is indeed cruel, and unusual, there is a shot for rehabilitating these criminals.