Thursday, March 12, 2009

Response to "Bill Could Free Teen Killers" in The Macomb Daily

I wrote the following message in response to some of the negative comments that were posted yesterday to the article, "Bill Could Free Teen Killers." The article appeared in The Macomb Daily.

I would like to add that the vast majority of individuals that life without parole sentences (LWOP) are imposed on are children of color. What is our criminal justice system saying, that only children of color commit crimes? Or is it sending a strong signal that they are only interested in imprisoning children of color and marginalized for life?

This discriminatory practice goes well beyond sentencing children to prison for their rest of their lives. It contravenes the principles of rehabilitation and is a reflection that our society, with all its professionals and educated people, cannot develop solutions to the problems that lead to children committing crimes.

If a 40-year-old person goes into adult court with the mentality of a 15-year-old courts across the nation very often deem that person as mentally unfit to stand trial. However, when a 15-year-old is accused of the same crime prosecutors seek to try him as an adult and banish him to prison for life.

These actions go against the evolving standards of decency in a civilized society. Contrary to what some may think, it is public policy like juvenile LWOP sentences that erodes our moral standing in the world. When we jettison common sense we deservingly invite global ridicule and create impediments to diplomacy with the rest of the world.

How can we expect the rest of the world to end human rights abuses in their respective countries when we are openly violating several international treaties related to the treatment of children in our country? How do we look as a society when we desert children, who are society's most vulnerable population?

I encourage intelligent dialogue about the lives and future of children impacted by LWOP sentences. It is not a conversation that should be infected with shallow, myopic ideas. Transforming society will require prevention that helps us steer youth away from crime. It makes no sense to continue manufacturing new ways to deal with the symptoms of crime rather than producing cures and preventive measures.

Please read "Sentencing Our Children to Die in Prison" by the University of San Francisco School of Law" to learn more about the realities of imposing LWOP sentences on children: You are also encouraged to visit to view many articles and research studies about juvenile LWOP sentences.

Remember, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." (Fyodor Dostoevsky)