US Among Harshest for Sentencing Children

Daniel Macallair reported here in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday that the United States and Somalia are the only two nations that refuse to sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child because of its ban on sentencing children to die in prison.

What happened to our culture? The United States was once looked up to for what the rest of the world perceived as a country that embodied justice and equality for all people. Have we closed our eyes and refused to look at what we’re doing to our children? Is it that these changes have been so insidious that we just don’t know what’s going on? Or do we really not care?

I think Americans are better than that. I think we’re more compassionate than that.

What do you think?

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2 responses to “US Among Harshest for Sentencing Children

  1. I have been following the series on juveniles in prison without parole as well as the legislation and establishment of a juvenile clemency board. While trying to get a different tier of sentencing for juveniles is worthwhile, perhaps another avenue to be explored and changed is the paradox of what constitutes a child and charging children as adults. I find it interesting that this decision lies within the purvue of a small group of DAs and prosecutors. Eg. If a 17 yr. old girl is not mature enough to make an adult decision to have sex then how is a 17 yr. old boy mature enough to make an adult decision to kill ? One is called a child and a victim of sexual assault and the other is called an adult and is prosecuted & sentenced as such. Help me understand this.

  2. Bobbie Jean,

    I agree and I need to do a little research to figure out which states have the direct file provision and how that happened. In the Frontline Special, “When Kids Get Life” it was discussed that Colorado used to have one of the more progressive Juvenile Justice systems in the country. Juveniles who’d committed serious crimes were brought before a judge and the prosecutor and a decision was made as to whether the case would be handled within the Juvenile Justice system or the adult Criminal Justice System. I completely agree that this unilateral authority of the District Attorney to direct file needs scrutiny. Also, great point about the same 17 year old being viewed as a child when she’s had consensual sex with an adult, but an adult when she’s committed a crime. I will have a couple of posts coming soon about teenage girls. Cheryl Armstrong is currently serving a 96 year sentence for being the driver of a vehicle involved in a shooting. I believe she was 16 at the time of the crime. Thanks so much for stopping in to comment and I hope to see you here often.

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