What do these adorable kids have in common?

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If you guessed that they have all been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in the United States at the age of 13 or 14, you are sadly correct.  I cannot read this report (pdf) without feeling like we must do something. Judges had no discretion, many of the kids have no legal representation, some are in prison for LIFE for non-violent crimes, and of course, it is racially biassed. This entry is filed under “crime” but let me assure you, I mean the crime of doing this to defensless children. As if the life circumstances they endured were not enough. OK all you old Legal Studies graduates of mine out there in big firms — get this to your managing partner and see if you can get this as part of your pro bono program. There is probably a kid incarcerated in your state (IL has a 13 year old and surprisingly, Texas has none).  

Hat tip: scatterplot

PS:  Equal Justice Initiative, please don’t be mad that I grabbed some pictures from the report to make my point.

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2 Responses to What do these adorable kids have in common?

  1. lankdangle says:

    How do you put someone away for life before they really start one?

  2. vancleve says:

    These cases are so tragic because the minors are so young. It is clear that the system is throwing away children in the most callous way.

    Yet, every day in Cook County a steady stream of “minors” are charged as adults. Seventeen and eighteen year old kids are viewed as adult offenders and as a result, they lose many of the rehabilitation services available to them as a juvenile.

    What never ceases to amaze me is how class constructs the delineation of “childhood.” When I clerked at the State’s Attorney’s office (I was 20 years old…a child as well), the SAs considered 17 year old/18 year old defendants as adults and charged them as such. Yet, travel to New Trier, Stevenson or any other high-achieving schools in the local suburbs and 17 is still the realm of childhood and growth.

    In making this point, I have a shameless plug of a report that I have been working on for two years with Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. You can get a copy of the report on:
    http://chicagoappleseed.org/ The study details many of the short comings of Cook County’s criminal justice system.

    The report sites that studies on the brain function and legal culpability indicate that the brain continues to mature in the parts governing impulsivity, judgment, planning for the future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that contribute to legal culpability well into one’s early 20’s.

    As researcher Dr. Elizabeth Sowell stated: “age 21 or 22 would be closer to the ‘biological’ age of maturity.”

    What is promising is that this research is starting to inspire states like Illinois to propose legislation to raise the cap age for juvenile court from 17 to 18, and to create a separate Department of Juvenile Justice with a focus on a treatment model.
    (http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/Adolescence.pdf)

    Not sure if this will be politically appealing but it is a start. Time will tell.

    ps. Laura Beth- Can you teach me how to do those cool links…This blogging this is still new to me.

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