Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why are American Children Beyond Redemption?

Is there anything more dangerous than a child soldier? First, it requires a certain hardness of heart to actively defend oneself against a child. Besides that, a child does not have the brain development nor the experience necessary to discern long time consequences, to make sound judgments and to control impulses. It takes time for the brain to mature and internalize a sense of morality.

So, children can be dangerous and commit heinous acts against humanity...there is no doubt about it, but, our system of justice, rather than rehabilitate juvenile offenders, transforming them into productive citizens, growing evidence says juvenile systems exacerbate delinquency, creating costly burdens to society.

“We have a great need to reform the juvenile justice system, from sentencing to punishment to the actual prisons we’re placing juveniles in. There’s clearly something wrong, the system isn’t working.” -- Jane Christie, 23, a law student at ASU.
John Anderson (not his real name), a 55-year old peace activist, told me, that as a young boy he loved guns, toy soldiers, army games, and anything involving weapons. His father, a policeman, threatened John with harsh punishment if he ever discovered that John had even touched his gun,warning him constantly of the deadly consequences that could occur from real guns.

At 16-years old, John, far from a child, but not yet a man and a friend took his father's gun out, and after quickly checking to make sure the gun was empty, played a game of Russian roulette. Luckily, for them, the gun was indeed empty and no one was hurt, however, John now looks back on that experience and has a hard time believing he initiated what could only be described as dangerous and immoral act. He not only risked his own life, but that of his friend as well.

Yet, despite overwhelming evidence that proves children and adolescent brains are not fully mature, the United States continues to send minors into the adult criminal-justice system, even for nonviolent crimes and incarcerate children for life without the possibility of parole. We are the only nation in the world that puts children behind bars and throws away the key.
“The evidence now is strong that the brain does not cease to mature until the early 20s in those relevant parts that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning for the future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that make people morally culpable….”
As "free" as we are in the US, freedom to screw up is not included. Our system of justice is purely punitive. Rehabilitation programs are non-existent.


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