Young Kids Hard Time
I woke up early this morning and began reading my newspaper as usual. I checked my hub statistics, I had posted an article on life imprisonment for juveniles and was checking for the Supreme Court decision if it is cruel and inhumane.
On the second page in the headlines the headline caught my eye and my heart.
"13 year old faces life imprisonment if convicted of the murder of 9 year old" a beautiful 9 year old whose smiling face graced the article. The 13 year old also had her picture displayed, on her face was a look of disdain, disinterest, and totally without remorse. Why I asked myself before reading the article. Why would one child take the life of the precious little girl smiling at me?
From my visits to the article I had posted I think maybe society does not consider juvenile crime a problem, just stages they go through. From my experience as a correctional officer who has worked with juveniles, I know how cruel, cunning and heartless they can be.
I sighed and continued to read. "I choked her, stabbed her and cut her throat, I just wanted to know how it felt to kill someone" said the 13 year old. I had already dug the grave where I buried her.
The 13 year old was tried as an adult, in my opinion she should have been. Her blantant disregard for the life of the child she killed, her lack of remorse and the chance of future danger to society makes me think the punishment is necessary. It was a calculated and coldblooded, pre-meditated murder. The murder of an innocent child who had her whole life ahead of her.
When I read things like this I am divided and torn inside. But the one thing I have always wondered is what is happening to our children? What could possibly make one child want to kill another child? Why would a 13 year old want to know how it feels to kill? Has society become so depraved and indifferent that we do not notice what is happening with our children?
My eight year old son knows more about sex than I did in high school. He is computer savy, intelligent and curious. Sometimes he comes home and will shock me with what he has learned that day. I look at him and am afraid, I try to protect him, shield him, show him enough love to keep him safe.
I look again at the face of the 13 year old again. What happened? What changed this child into a vicious murderer and hardened her heart so much she can not even feel remorse for the beautiful child she so brutally killed.
Life imprisonment for juveniles? As a former corrections officer I wish I could agree that it is cruel and inhumane, but looking at the picture of innocence of the victim, in my heart I know it may be the only option.
How can we be sure if we release her at age 18 that she will not still harbor those same feelings? How do we know she will not kill again, if not punished sufficently for this crime. Maybe the next time it could be my child, or yours?
Life Imprisonment for juveniles? It seems harsh but due to the increasing violence of juveniles and the seemingly indifference of society, maybe it is the only alternative.
Growing up I was constantly supervised by my parents. I wasn't allowed to roam the streets, hang out with the wrong crowd or watch inappropiate tv shows. Today we have parental controls on tv's, we monitor our childs every movement. But what about the children from a single parent home where the parent has to work to provide for the family? The home where both parents work to make ends meet? Where does this leave the children?
Life inprisonment for juveniles? I am afraid we have reached a point where it has to be considered. As sad as it is our own children have become a danger to others and society.
Children or Criminals?
At what age do children understand the consequences of their actions? At what age should they be held responsible for their actions?
Depending on their upbring and parental involvement, I think it differs from child to child. A child who has no parental supervision will learn from the streets what is missing at home. But does this excuse his acts of violence, or make him any less responsible? Do I thinl Life Imprisonment for a teenager is cruel and unusal? NO!!
In the state of Texas, life means you are eligible for parole in 40 years, so if you are a teenager, you would still be young upon release and hopefully learned what you didn't at home. For every action there is a consequence, good or bad. I believe that by the time a child reaches the teen years he knows the difference between right and wrong.
If he takes a life, then maybe in the 40 years he will learn to appreciate what freedom means and that it is also a privilege, one forefeited for the crime of murder. I do not believe that a slap on the wrist or probation is sufficient for the punishment , even for a juvenile.
Having worked in the Dept. of Corrections I know how violent some teens can be. I am not saying rehabilitation is not possible but that maybe for serious crimes such as homocide it would give them time to think.
To prevent further danger to society it is sometimes necessary to sentence one to the maximum penalty allowed by law. I am not saying we should execute juveniles, only that they should not be given a light sentence for a major crime.
Update: More Violence
In 2008 homicide was the second cause of death for youth ages 10-24. Emergency room visits have increased into the hundreds of thousands for youth involved in violence. An increase in school shootings and violence against parents, siblings and others has also climbed to alarming proportions. this again returns us to the question "what do we do with these children?"
This week alone the news is focused on a 12 year old who killed his math teacher, an 11 year old who dropped his 4 month old sibling on his head three times killing him, a 15 year old who killed her parents. What is it that is leading our children to commit such horrifying acts of violence ?
We are the "instant gratification" the I want it now generation. More and more families are single parent homes or homes where both parents work. This leaves the children of these homes alone and usually supervised by an older sibling sometimes not mature enough to be left in this position. This can breed resentment towards the younger children. I used to hate watching my younger brothers and sisters while my parents worked. Also we are raising our children in an age of super technology far beyond what you and I ever imagined as children. The internet has made violence readily available and has become a dangerous playground for our children. Many parents use the computer or game systems as babysitters without supervision of what their child is seeing or doing. Also adding to the problem is the mobility of cyberspace. It seems every child has a cell phone with internet. Why does a 9 year old need a cell phone?
Cyber bullying has become the norm and the number of children dying by suicide after being bullied has risen tremendously. Even with parental controls it is near impossible to monitor your child's activities online. It is much easier to make threats and say things online than face to face. Retaliation and threats made online are often carried out later at school or elsewhere. In Houston my friends 17 year old nephew was stabbed to death at school because someone bumped into someone in the hall, 3 other children were injured and the school was on lock down all day. It seems that violence is a part of everyday life and we are becoming numb to what is going on around us. This is dangerous. Our children are out of control.
What Is The Solution
I do believe that in some circumstances incarceration is necessary as intervention. I do not agree with putting a child in an adult jail or prison. I believe that a juvenile facility that is structured around counseling for both family and offender and education is an option. I also believe that parents and community are equally responsible for our youth. More parental supervision is also necessary. Don't take for granted what your child is doing online. LOOK !!. Yes I snoop in my son's room, look at his friend list, and look over his shoulder while he is online. I also make it a priority to know the parents of his friends. I do not use the computer or TV as a replacement for spending time with him. All of this even if it may seem too much today I feel is necessary.
These children are our future and we are all responsible for them. We can not just lock them up and throw away the key. We must be interactive and take responsibility.Watch your child for signs of distress, anger, or just that something isn't right. Watch for isolation and withdrawal. Get counseling if needed. I'm not sure this is the whole answer but it couldn't hurt.