America, please stop convicting children as adults

As the rumblings of a change to the policy of capital punishment begin in America, the Equal Justice Initiative is releasing a report that says states should be required to review sentences of juvenile offenders, looking for cases where parole might be warranted.   According to the report, there are 73 Americans serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14. I found it shocking that such a cavalier attitude to children’s crimes is taken; so does the UN which took up a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers in a vote of 185 to 1, with the United States the lone dissenter.

Perhaps we should not be surprised given the track record on capital punishment, global military belligerence and failures to build the resources of the least advantaged (like education and health).  As a parent I know that children simply reflect the environment in which they find themselves and, as minors, responsibility for their behaviour lies first with parents and then with the community and state.  As an adult I know that mistakes can be made and trying to correct our mistakes is the usual consequence.  As a scientist, I know that incarceration expands criminal potential while rehabilitation works.  It is time past due for America to move on from its primitive “wild-west” culture and set a more enlightened standard.


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