Total Pageviews

Monday, November 9, 2009

Update on Children in Prison post

Robert Barnes wrote a piece for the Washington Post that caught my attention this morning. The article is entitled "High Court to look at life in prison for juveniles". (

It states that today the Supreme Court will decide if sentencing juveniles to prison without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. However, they are only asking that the juveniles who have committed non-homicide crimes be included in this. Surprisingly, there are currently 111 people in prisons across our country who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole while they were juveniles for non-homicide crimes which would leave the subject of my earlier post out in the cold. I was really disappointed in that but at least this current development is a step in the right direction.

I was tremendously surprised that there were that many in our prisons and also that they were sent away to die in prison for non-homicidal crimes. What didn't surprise me is that Florida has 70% of these people. This was a result from Florida's rash of crimes against tourist back in the 1990's. As much as I would love to blame this on Jeb Bush, I was saddened to learn that he was not governor during these times. Instead the blame should rest squarely with Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles.

There were (to my surprise) state representatives from 19 states who showed up to contest this. Of course, Florida was present but Louisiana was perhaps equally vocal in its opposition. I honestly cannot understand why anyone would oppose this.

The two cases being reviewed from Florida concerns Joe Harris Sullivan a convicted rapist (who maintains to this day that he is innocent) and Terrance Graham who was convicted after he was caught in a burglary while on probation.

Sullivan and Graham are supported by a wide-ranging group of organizations: the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and academics and social scientists who argue that juveniles cannot be held responsible for their actions in the same way adults are. For the same reason, they say, younger teenagers are not entrusted with decisions such as voting, marrying or drinking.

But the states supporting Florida said the penalty is reserved for the worst offenders. "It is a rare and agonizing decision to sentence a juvenile to life-without-parole," said a brief filed by Louisiana and other states. "But rare does not mean unconstitutional. Rather, rarity is an index of mercy -- of reluctance to take this severe step."

The National District Attorneys Association, supporting Florida, said that while life without parole for juveniles might be unusual, "permanent incarceration for the most violent, hardened juvenile offenders is by no means 'cruel.' "

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that the immature actions and developing nature of a juvenile meant that "it is less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character." He added: "It would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed."

Until a crystal ball is invented with which we can foresee the future, there is no way that we can state without pause that a child will NEVER be able to be rehabilitated. We simply cannot do this and should not even try.

I am completely against the giving of a life without possibility of parole or any sentence coming even close to that for a juvenile. I am also against the sending of minors to adult prisons. It wasn't until 2005 that our country stopped allowing minors to be executed for their crimes!! 2005!! Good God!

I can understand where this all started. There was a time not too awfully long ago, when gangs would take juveniles and "train" them to do illegal things because they knew if the juvenile was caught, he would go to juvie and then be back on the streets whereas his adult counterparts could face "the chair". This led to a rash of juveniles being recruited by gangs and other illegal groups and also to a rash of crimes, oftentimes violent, by these juvenile "armies".

However, allowing a child to grow up and die in prison is not the deterrent that the "powers that be" might have hoped for. This experiment failed miserably and needs to be stopped!

Why did it never enter into their heads to up the pressure on the adults who were recruiting these minors? Are our police in this country so inept that they can only catch juveniles in these situations? I mean really! Get these gangs off our streets and out of our neighborhoods and there will be no one to recruit these juveniles and without the recruiters, the vast majority of these juveniles either won't be arrested for anything worse than the stealing of a bike or a fight in the alley.

Let's look at it from a financial standpoint. To predict the cost to taxpayers to convict a juvenile is almost impossible. It depends on the nature of the crime and the depth and length of the trial. However, I can list a few costs that are pretty much across the board. There is the cost of the public defender and his/her staff. There is the cost of trial exhibits, the costs of finding witnesses and obtaining their statements. There are motions to be drafted, filed and argued. Subpoenas to be drafted, filed, executed and followed up on. Then comes the actual trial, conviction and sentencing phases. It is estimated that this can go as high as $700,000 per trial. Even higher if DNA or other specialized tests are performed and even higher still if expert witnesses are called.

Above all that, is the cost taxpayers pay for the other side. The prosecution. We have to have at least one prosecutor involved. There are police to investigate and come up with witnesses, witness statements, evidence and the testing of said evidence. There is a Judge to be paid and court costs, a court reporter. We have to house this juvenile while all this is going on. The cost can be pretty extreme.

It cost a minimum of $33,000 a year to keep a person in prison. That's an adult criminal. It costs more for a juvenile because of the extra protection and isolation that the juvenile has to have until he/she becomes an adult and is then thrown into the general population. But we will go with the $33,000 number.

Let's say the juvenile spends 20 years in prison. That's a pretty low number since if you are convicted at the ripe age of 17, there is a very good chance that you will live to be well over 37 years of age. But we will just go with that number for the sake of argument. 20 x $33,000 = $660,000.

So, $700,000 + $660,000 = $1,360,000 This number does not take into consideration increases in the prices of trial or imprisonment. Nor does it take into account the extra cost of housing a minor OR the extra cost of providing said minor with health care, dental care, vision care, or other "benefits" afforded them during their time in prison. It most certainly does NOT take into account any appeal cost.

Now let's look at the cost of sending that juvenile to an institution until they are an adult or rehabilitated. If you break it down, it costs an average of $93.22 a day to house an adult in prison. It costs approximately $618.00 to house an adult in a state mental health facility. That is a vast and enormous difference in price. On the surface it would certainly appear that the money saving is in sending the kids to prison.

However, remember that you are sending them to prison for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. You are providing them with health care for the rest of their lives. You are providing them with other benefits for the rest of their lives. Also, bear in mind that these prices are for adults and that juveniles in prison require extra's that are not reflected in this price.

Another thing to consider is supply and demand. The more people who use a facility, the lower the cost of that facility becomes. Simple economics. That's one reason private facilities cost so much more. Fewer people go there. If the government entered into a contract with a facility for their juvenile offenders, they would receive an awesome discount and this price would go down accordingly. Also, remember that this juvenile won't be spending the next 50 years in that facility. There is a more obtainable end in sight with this scenario versus prison.

So, if you take into account just the base cost of prison where they will simply be warehoused against the cost of sending them to a state facility where they could get help and perhaps be rehabilitated and get out in time to actually have a life ahead of them, it is on the surface less expensive to send them to prison. But as I said, factor in the health care and other benefits given to them during their lifetime in prison and it comes out pretty even.

Another good side effect of not sending them to prison is the room it will make for adult criminals in there making our need to release early due to overcrowding a little better.

I don't really care if it is more expensive, I just want us to stop sending our children to prison for the rest of their lives. Period.

But that's just me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anti Hate Laws

This country has enacted and continues to enact strong laws protecting the gay and lesbian communities, the black community, the religious communities, the Latino communities and every other sort of "minority" community it can think of. The communities that our government is steadfastly ignoring or refusing to protect are the elderly communities and the children communities. If you murder an elderly person or a child, your sentence is vastly less than had you murdered a 30 year old. Sad, but true. Especially in the instance of murdering a child. And most especially if the child was yours.

If I kill an adult white male, I will get far less time than if I kill an adult black male or an adult gay or lesbian IF the prosecutor can plant a seed of doubt in the jurors minds that I might not like black people or gays and/or lesbians. Would they have a difficult time dredging up past statements by me to that effect?

Probably not. I think nearly everyone at some point in their lives have made racial statements or has rolled their eyes at some gay/lesbian comment or media report. I think practically everyone at some point in their lives has uttered a racial joke or a joke about gays/lesbians. I really do. We do it in the privacy of our homes or with our friends/relatives/co-workers and then we forget all about it. Because we weren't doing it to incite violence or to spread hatred.

However, if the prosecutor is worth his/her salt, they should be able to dig up a person or two who heard the statement(s). That's all it would take for my sentence to be doubled.

Now, why is it that as the laws are written, a black person or a gay/lesbian person cannot (or are not) charged with these extra offenses if they kill me? I am reminded of Malaika Tamu Griffin. She has appeared on America's Most Wanted because she was a fugitive for quite some time.

This was a black woman who hated white people and eventually shot and killed her white neighbor in front of witnesses. She then disappeared and was a fugitive from justice for over 5 years. When the police entered her apartment, they found numerous magazines, articles and journal entries written by Griffin pertaining to her intense hatred of white people and the possible eradication of the white race.

They also found scores of weapons, ammunition and other items which obviously pointed to the fact that Ms. Griffin was not a passive believer but fully intended to actively involve herself in this process.

Was she charged under the hate crime laws? No, she was not. She was charged and convicted (once they found her) of simple 1st degree murder, vehicle theft and aggravated robbery. The vehicle theft charge stemmed from the fact that after she (unprovoked) shot and killed an unarmed man in his own driveway, she committed a car jacking in order to secure a getaway vehicle.

With ALL of this abundant evidence including eye witnesses to the crime, it still took the jury over 7 hours to deliver a guilty verdict. Huh? She received life in prison. However, why didn't she receive the extra punishment that a white person would have received had they been in her shoes?

This is not the only case of this type out there. I could pull up case upon case of such hate crimes against unprotected "classes". However, this is perhaps the most famous due to the fact that AMW aired her profile twice before she was caught.

This is my take on the entire situation. If a crime is committed against an elderly person, a child, (in very rare situations) a woman, or on an adult who is severely handicapped, then give them lots of extra time.

But if the crime is against one adult to another, give them equal time. We don't need to send a message to our citizens and the world that in this country the only people we protect are minorities or gays/lesbians or religious people or whatever.

We need to give the message loud and clear that we don't tolerate beatings, lynchings, rapes or murders PERIOD. End of chat!

But that's just me.

Children in Prison.

Sara Kruzan: Life Without Parole for Killing her Pimp

Let's discuss the video that I have linked to this blog and the fact that we have children sitting in prison for life.

A 16 year old girl who had been raped by her pimp since she was 13 thinks there is no way out for her from this hellish life except to kill her pimp. She gets life without parole and then some. Fair? Is this justice? Let's take a look at that.

Now don't get me wrong on this, I hate my taxpayer dollars being spent on long drawn out trials just as much as the next person. I truly do.

I hate it SO much whenever a defendant gets on the stand and wastes taxpayer money and the Courts time by sobbing about what a crappy childhood they had or how they were entangled in the clutches of drug addiction or alcoholism or how they were abused by their husband/wife (whoever). My normal reaction is "so what"?? LOTS of people in this world are abused, raped, beaten, drug addicted, alcohol addicted and still they manage to see another way out of their situation. It happens every stinking day. These people don't resort to murder to get out of their situations.

However, in ever-increasing frequency you run across a person who truly had no other avenue available to them and this is the situation with this young woman.

She was raised by a neglectful (to put it mildly) mother. She had no father in her life. She was an isolated 11 year old when she met her future pimp. He treated her very well for a couple of years and worked his mind control "magic" on her before raping her at the age of 13 and then putting her out on the streets as a prostitute. Her hours were from 5 to 5.

Now where was her mother during this? My daughter was once 13. Do you think for a second that I would allow her to be gone during those hours? Uh, no. For that matter do you think I am going to allow her to run around with a grown man when she is 11 without me being present at all times? Uh, no. Neither of these scenarios would have happened. Not on a dare! However, no adult stepped in to protect this child. They in effect threw her to the wolves without a second thought.

Sara had NO ONE to protect her. She was a child left to her own devices and made to look out for herself. I don't care how "street smart" you are, when you are 11, your decision making abilities are not to the point that you can protect yourself from every situation that crops up. Not nearly.

For Sara, there was no trusted adult anywhere in her life that she felt she could turn to and ask for help. She absolutely fell through the cracks in her life. So, she did the only thing she could think of to do in her 13 year old mind. She murdered her pimp to put an end to this hell.

When she was sentenced, the judge told her that she had no "moral scruples". SHE WAS 11 YEARS OLD WHEN HE GOT HIS HANDS ON HER! Where in the world (or at least in her world) would she possibly have had moral scruples taught to her? Who in her world had the ability to show by example or to teach these to her? Who in her world even possessed them?

After she got to prison she had to look these words up in a dictionary because she didn't even know what they meant. Does that sound like a hardened killer to you?

Even she admits she should be punished for what she did. Even she admits that what she did was wrong. Why should she have to spend the rest of her natural life in prison when it is her mother and the pimp who should be punished. Well, the pimp did get his sentence, but her mother is free as a bird and able to do as she pleases while the daughter that she created sits in prison.

This is just not right!!

To date, over 2200 children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons in this country.

Prisons (at least in America) were initially created as a way to rehabilitate the criminals who could still be rehabilitated and only as a last resort to warehouse those individuals who needed to remain off the streets for the safety of the general public. Sara is no threat to the general public. She is a shining example of someone who could very easily be rehabilitated.

I'm all for the 3rd strike laws. If you didn't learn anything the first two times, then by the third time, you need to go away permanently. That's my take on it. But if you are a child, I don't care what heinous act you have committed, there is always the possibility, however slight, that you can be rehabilitated and at some point in your life, you can lead a productive and law abiding life! We aren't a country of psychics! How can anyone say with complete certainty that a child can NEVER be reformed? No one knows that!! And by locking that child up with adult offenders for any period of time, we are insuring that they are lost forever.

Stop sending money to other countries so their children can be educated and fed and clothed and protected! SPEND THAT MONEY IN OUR OWN COUNTRY SO OUR CHILDREN CAN BE PROPERLY FED, CLOTHED, HOUSED, PROPERLY EDUCATED AND MOST OF ALL - PROTECTED!

Start sending these children to juvenile facilities. Not the ones we currently have in place. They are nothing more than junior prisons and warehouses.

Let's spend the money to create facilities where the children will be emotionally, psychologically and physically cared for. Let's give them the tools that they obviously did not get from the adults in their lives to deal with life's numerous situations without resorting to violence. Let's up their opinion of themselves a notch or two. MOST of these children can be salvaged. MOST of these children can learn from their mistakes no matter how horrendous they were and can go forward and be productive law abiding citizens.

Many of them would need to be housed in a mental health facility for sure. But the money we would save down the road would far exceed the money we will spend to house these children in adult prisons for the rest of their lives.

What is wrong with this country???? Why do we turn our backs on our own children while all the time we are sending Angelina Jolie to foreign countries to help their children?? Why are people like Oprah and Madonna opening schools for girls in foreign countries while we have a staggering number of girls in this country every day who are being pushed into prostitution, raped, beaten, molested, etc. Are our girls not worth the time and money?? Are their girls more valuable than ours??

I am sick of this! Spend your time and money HERE. Save OUR children. Let other countries worry about their own children until we have taken ours back.

What hypocrites we are and don't think the rest of the world doesn't see that. We seem to be the only people in the world who doesn't.

But that's just me.