Monday, January 20, 2014

Children for Life

In our ever increasing retaliatory and revenge seeking culture we have included children as social nemesis with no potential for redemption or recovery that led them to commit a crime so heinous as assault another or steal.  Yes that is a future Charles Manson undoubtedly.  And when you read that book about his life (a NY Times 2013 Best list) you will see a lifelong pattern of abuse and neglect. Imagine had it been handled appropriately perhaps.. oh well hindsight and all that.

As Schools are starting to realize that zero tolerance has truly zero with regards to tolerance and in our 3 strikes you're out form of Justice, kids are finding out that in fact it just takes one strike and you are out of luck and in jail for ostensibly life.

When you look at the increased violence at the hands of children there are warning signs, families often plagued with problems or issues that have gone neglected and ignored until that child in a desperate cry or plea for mental health or death, as really when a child goes on the kind of violent assault as Sandy Hook they have no intention of coming out alive, then the media goes on high alert and in turn the appropriate acronym groups demand laws and punishments which then the Legislators duly comply ignoring the real problems that brought these children to the brink.

An article about the idea of how stipends aka "entitlements" work and their long term affects is here, but these studies are cited and demonstrate that health begins at home and can offset through help. Help  comes in many forms not just at the end of a check.

A parallel study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also highlights the insidious effect of poverty on parenting. The Family Life Project, now in its 11th year, has followed nearly 1,300 mostly poor rural children in North Carolina and Pennsylvania from birth. Scientists quantify maternal education, income and neighborhood safety, among other factors. The stressors work cumulatively, they’ve found. The more they bear down as a whole, the more parental nurturing and support, as measured by observers, declines.

By age 3, measures of vocabulary, working memory and executive function show an inverse relationship with the stressors experienced by parents.

These skills are thought important for success and well-being in life. Maternal warmth can seemingly protect children from environmental stresses, however; at least in these communities, parenting quality seems to matter more to a child than material circumstances. On the other hand, few parents managed high levels of nurturing while also experiencing great strain. All of which highlights an emerging theme in this science: Early-life poverty may harm, in part, by warping and eroding the bonds between children and caregivers that are important for healthy development.

Evidence is accumulating that these stressful early-life experiences affect brain development. In one recent study, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis followed 145 preschoolers between 3 and 6 years of age for up to 10 years, documenting stressful events — including deaths in the family, fighting and frequent moves — as they occurred. When they took magnetic resonance imaging scans of subjects’ brains in adolescence, they observed differences that correlated with the sum of stressful events.

Early-life stress and poverty correlated with a shrunken hippocampus and amygdala, brain regions important for memory and emotional well-being, respectively. Again, parental nurturing seemed to protect children somewhat. When it came to hippocampal volume in particular, parental warmth mattered more than material poverty.

The prospective nature of both studies makes them particularly compelling. But as always with observational studies, we can’t assume causality. Maybe the children’s pre-existing problems are stressing the parents. Or perhaps less nurturing parents are first depressed, and that depression stems from their genes. That same genetic inheritance then manifests as altered neural architecture in their children.

It is much easier to lock people up and then ignore them, label them the problem, that whole intrinsic thing that the Horatio Galt's love to bander about while simultaneously pulling up their Ferragamo bootstraps.

The New York Times op ed had this today and the article below discussing the problems with our incarceration obsession and how it affects our society and the people whose lives they are supposedly redeeming.   And once again they quote this freak: Kent S. Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation who is one step removed from Snidley Whiplash. Honestly, can a paper as esteemed as the Times not find a reasonable yet conservative voice?

I say horse whip the bastards it worked in 12 Years a Slave, right Kent?


Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings

 By:  ERIK ECKHOLM
Published January 20, 2014

 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In decisions widely hailed as milestones, the United States Supreme Court in 2010 and 2012 acted to curtail the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption.

But most states have taken half measures, at best, to carry out the rulings, which could affect more than 2,000 current inmates and countless more in years to come, according to many youth advocates and legal experts.

“States are going through the motions of compliance,” said Cara H. Drinan, an associate professor of law at the Catholic University of America, “but in an anemic or hyper-technical way that flouts the spirit of the decisions.”

Lawsuits now before Florida’s highest court are among many across the country that demand more robust changes in juvenile justice. One of the Florida suits accuses the state of skirting the ban on life without parole in nonhomicide cases by meting out sentences so staggering that they amount to the same thing.

Other suits, such as one argued last week before the Illinois Supreme Court, ask for new sentencing hearings, at least, for inmates who received automatic life terms for murder before 2012 — a retroactive application that several states have resisted.

The plaintiff in one of the Florida lawsuits, Shimeek Gridine, was 14 when he and a 12-year-old partner made a clumsy attempt to rob a man in 2009 here in Jacksonville. As the disbelieving victim turned away, Shimeek fired a shotgun, pelting the side of the man’s head and shoulder.

The man was not seriously wounded, but Shimeek was prosecuted as an adult. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and robbery, hoping for leniency as a young offender with no record of violence. The judge called his conduct “heinous” and sentenced him to 70 years without parole.

Under Florida law, he cannot be released until he turns 77, at least, several years beyond the life expectancy for a black man his age, noted his public defender, who called the sentence “de facto life without parole” in an appeal to Florida’s high court.

“They sentenced him to death, that’s how I see it,” Shimeek’s grandmother Wonona Graham said.
>
The Supreme Court decisions built on a 2005 ruling that banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders as cruel and unusual punishment, stating that offenders younger than 18 must be treated differently from adults.

The 2010 decision, Graham v. Florida, forbade sentences of life without parole for juveniles not convicted of murder and said offenders must be offered a “meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” The ruling applied to those who had been previously sentenced.

Cases like Shimeek’s aim to show that sentences of 70 years, 90 years or more violate that decision. Florida’s defense was that Shimeek’s sentence was not literally “life without parole” and that the life span of a young inmate could not be predicted.

Probably no more than 200 prisoners were affected nationally by the 2010 decision, and they were concentrated in Florida. So far, of 115 inmates in the state who had been sentenced to life for non homicide convictions, 75 have had new hearings, according to the Youth Defense Institute at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando. In 30 cases, the new sentences have been for 50 years or more. One inmate who had been convicted of gun robbery and rape has received consecutive sentences totaling 170 years

In its 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court declared that juveniles convicted of murder may not automatically be given life sentences. Life terms remain a possibility, but judges and juries must tailor the punishment to individual circumstances and consider mitigating factors.

The Supreme Court did not make it clear whether the 2012 ruling applied retroactively, and state courts have been divided, suggesting that this issue, as well as the question of de facto life sentences, may eventually return to the Supreme Court.

Advocates for victims have argued strongly against revisiting pre-2012 murder sentences or holding parole hearings for the convicts, saying it would inflict new suffering on the victims’ families.

Pennsylvania has the most inmates serving automatic life sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles: more than 450, according to the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. In October, the State Supreme Court found that the Miller ruling did not apply to these prior murder convictions, creating what the law center, a private advocacy group, called an “appallingly unjust situation” with radically different punishments depending on the timing of the trial.

Likewise, courts in Louisiana, with about 230 inmates serving mandatory life sentences for juvenile murders, refused to make the law retroactive. In Florida, with 198 such inmates, the issue is under consideration by the State Supreme Court, and on Wednesday it was argued before the top court of Illinois, where 100 inmates could be affected.

Misgivings about the federal Supreme Court decisions and efforts to restrict their application have come from some victim groups and legal scholars around the country.

“The Supreme Court has seriously overgeneralized about under-18 offenders,” said Kent S. Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a conservative group in Sacramento, Calif. “There are some under 18 who are thoroughly incorrigible criminals.”

Some legal experts who are otherwise sympathetic have suggested that the Supreme Court overreached, with decisions that “represent a dramatic judicial challenge to legislative authority,” according to a new article in the Missouri Law Review by Frank O. Bowman III of the University of Missouri School of Law.

Among the handful of states with large numbers of juvenile offenders serving life terms, California is singled out by advocates for acting in the spirit of the Supreme Court rules.

“California has led the way in scaling back some of the extreme sentencing policies it imposed on children,” said Jody Kent Lavy, the director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, which has campaigned against juvenile life sentences and called on states to reconsider mandatory terms dispensed before the Miller ruling. Too many states, she said, are “reacting with knee-jerk, narrow efforts at compliance.”

California is allowing juvenile offenders who were condemned to life without parole to seek a resentencing hearing. The State Supreme Court also addressed the issue of de facto life sentences, voiding a 110-year sentence that had been imposed for attempted murder.

Whether they alter past sentences or not, some states have adapted by imposing minimum mandatory terms for juvenile murderers of 25 or 35 years before parole can even be considered — far more flexible than mandatory life, but an approach that some experts say still fails to consider individual circumstances.

As Ms. Drinan of Catholic University wrote in a coming article in the Washington University Law Review, largely ignored is the mandate to offer young inmates a chance to “demonstrate growth and maturity,” raising their chances of eventual release.

To give young offenders a real chance to mature and prepare for life outside prison, Ms. Drinan said, “states must overhaul juvenile incarceration altogether,” rather than letting them languish for decades in adult prisons.

Shimeek Gridine, meanwhile, is pursuing a high school equivalency diploma in prison while awaiting a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that could alter his bleak prospects.

He has a supportive family: A dozen relatives, including his mother and grandparents and several aunts and uncles, testified at his sentencing in 2010, urging clemency for a child who played Pop Warner football and talked of becoming a merchant seaman, like his grandfather.

But the judge said the fact that Shimeek had a good family, and decent grades, only underscored that the boy knew right from wrong, and he issued a sentence 30 years longer than even the prosecution had asked for.

Now Florida’s top court is pondering whether his sentence violates the federal Constitution.

“A 70-year sentence imposed upon a 14-year-old is just as cruel and unusual as a sentence of life without parole,” Shimeek’s public defender, Gail Anderson, argued before the Florida court in September. “Mr. Gridine will most likely die in prison.”

No comments:

Post a Comment