My Photo
Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Friday, March 04, 2005

Roper and Juvenile Justice

Chefjef is dead spot on, I think, and the juvenile justice problem he highlights is a significant part of the backstory to the Roper decision. Say what you will about the death penalty itself, it is disproportionate if it is the first real punishment imposed on a young malefactor. I do not oppose the death penalty per se, for much the same reason I am not a pacifist, but I do think there would be much less need for it if limits were imposed earlier and consistently. I hope you are right, counsellor--some real benefit could come of the decision. Nonetheless, I still oppose it, and would even if I agreed with its arguments entirely. I shall try to be consistent in this and show equal dudgeon when Scalia or Thomas pull similar krep. Of course, my opposition and 37 cents (soon 39) will buy me a stamp. No one's opinion matters now that our appointed gods have handed down their edict from Olympus. --Monk

Chefjef: You're right, Monk. The S.C. is, in many cases, dictatorial. It has been for a long time, and, unfortunately, there is not a Justice among the current 9, nor the previous 11 or so, who are not repeat offenders. Unfortunately, due to partisanship, their extreme ruminations are only recognized 50% of the time. Lefties will agree with the Majority, and not see the flaws in their argument. When the majority is conservative, the same is true. [By the way, among the several typos in my last comment, I stated "1788" as a year of reference for policy cases. It should be 1798. Sorry about that.]

If you've ever wondered why lawyers are the way the are - cynical, always playing with words, believing everything is gray and a matter of "persuadable perception," why there is no respect for the legal system as an institution - it is because after spending three years reading cases (with some exceptions, of course), there is not much left to respect. This is one of the reasons I opted not to practice law after my internships. I don't want any part of it.

Nevertheless, some good may come out of this opinion. Personally, I am ambivalent about the opinion itself. But first, I should admit that I am against the death penalty. Before I accepted Christ, I was pro-death penalty. Since becoming a Christian, I am pro-life; I am against the death penalty as well as abortion "rights."

The good I speak of is in the juvenile justice system. I'll use Alabama as an example. In Alabama, juveniles are RARELY punished for serious crimes. I have arrested countless juveniles for serious felonies, and they receive probation, fines, community service, maybe some time in a boot camp or juvenile "facility."

I'll give you an example that is NOT [just] anecdotal. I once arrested a 15 year old for armed Robbery. He was a suspect in several others. He was convicted of the one Robbery, as well as a felony theft charge and a narcotics charge. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Well, the first 3 years was amended to probation (this is because he could not go to an adult jail; he would have to be certified as an adult to go to adult jail, and this is such a tedious process that prosecutors only do it for high profile cases or homicide cases).

Okay, so at 18 the boy should go to prison. NOT! The remaining 7 years of his sentence were suspended, which means that for felony Robbery, theft and cocaine possession charges the boy got 3 years of county probation. Last year that boy killed someone, and know he is on death row.

The running joke in law enforcement is that juveniles get probation and boot camp for shoplifting through Robbery, but the death penalty for murder (this isn't always the case, but it occurs with regularity). The juvenile justice system seems to have a difficult time with anything in between.

Perhaps this S.C. decision will force the juvenile justice system to deal more sternly with serious crime, so that young juveniles are not classically conditioned, through consistently not being APPROPRIATELY punished for criminal behavior, to think they can also get away with serious felonies. As it stands now, at least half of the serious felonies committed in Montgomery (which has a crime rate twice that of Los Angeles) are committed by serial offending juveniles. It is, if not by actual definition than at least practically, an epidemic.


<< Home