bright spots

bright spots 1

Those of us who have been involved in the struggle for youth justice have sustained ourselves in the hope that the nation is approaching the tipping point–the point beyond which enough citizens and legislators of America will no longer tolerate the cruel and insane youth justice policies which have dominated this country for at least three decades.

I am not writing today to say that this long-awaited point has been reached, but only to provide some additional evidence (and encouragement) that it is nearing.

In West Virginia, the legislature passed legislation giving juvenile lifers a chance for parole after 15 years. In this article, John Ellem, a conservative member of the West Virginia state legislature explains his reasons for sponsoring the bill. We’ve heard all this before; it is just such a delight hearing it voiced by a conservative who, in earlier days, might have been expected to be a passenger on the law-and-order bandwagon.

tj donovanIn Burlington VT, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, said at a press conference Wednesday that no charges would be filed against a teenager who killed his father, Kryn Miner, a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, who was shot and killed inside the family’s Essex Junction home last month. This article presents a rare example of a prosecutor resisting the knee-jerk reaction to saddle a kid with the lifelong burden of having to justify his actions in an incident which the prosecutor courageously cited as legally justified. While this incident is more clear-cut than most, the prosecutor’s decision should nevertheless win our praise and admiration.

The day will come when these two stories will not be the exception, but the rule, for juvenile justice in America.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Andrew Swait performing Handel’s “Eternal Source of Light”


2 Responses to “bright spots”

  1. May 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

    I am pleased to learn that a new State chose to enact legislation offering better prospects for young people and gives them a second chance. It is hoped that this will do like an oil stain, that other States will do the same and that the situation of young offenders will improve little by little.
    In my eyes, a juvenile (worst, a child) should never be tried and sentenced like an adult, despite the serious of the offense, as it is the case today in America. It‘s important to offer them a possibility to be released on probation after several years instead of having to serve LWOP or sentences who covers entire decades.
    But there are other measures to be considered by these States in their legislatures. By example: uprising of the age at which they can be tried as adults if these States do not want to abandon this possibility, removal of minimum sentences – especially for young people – in order to allow the judges to individualize sentences, not systematicly condemn the accomplices to the same punishment as the instigator of the crime or the offence if their responsibility are lesser….
    Most importantly, States should adopt policies aimed at more preventing than fight against crime or delinquency, not to reduce or eliminate social aid who can help to prevent this, only to save money. Fewer imprisoned people, it is less cost and more money to spend on prevention. Helping ex-detainees to rebuilt their life and not exclude them from social assistance is another way to prevent recidivism and to reduce the costs associated with crime. And fewer people who risk falling into delinquency or crime, it is more serenity for everybody.

  2. 2 Bob H
    May 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Certainly I agree that judges should have and should use the discretion to treat instigators and followers differently.

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