"We as a society must leave room for people, particularly juveniles, to change for the better. Whereas I once viewed people who break the law as worthy of nothing but condemnation and punishment, my outlook has changed, and I now see them as not too different from me. And because were I in their shoes, I would want to be given a second chance, I must therefore support California extending to juveniles that opportunity. California has made a step to acknowledge that new life is possible. My hope is that other states will follow and build upon this example."
(click here to read entire article). Preston Shipp Disciplinary counsel, The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee
We all hope that our character and the way those we interact with do not define us by our mistakes but by our contributions. We hope that we are able to overcome those mistakes, no matter how damaging or drastic and continue to move forward and grow in our lives. it is the same with someone who has committed a crime. This is a powerful article written by someone who argued AGAINST compassion for criminals. His human interaction with those society has condemned has caused a change of heart.
"They're all teenagers and teenagers by definition make bad decisions," Ross told Business Insider from "Sad Pictures of Kids Locked Up In America"
They stare at me across the table, room stark, no windows, no air to breath.
"Then we have no choice but to charge him with 1st degree murder."
PUNCH Right in my face!
"How can you do that? You have no evidence! You can't do that."
"We are and we will. Your son is coming with us."
PUNCH Right in my stomach!
A cry rises in my throat, stopped by unbelief, by fear as I hold my son as he cries,
"Mom, please! Whatever you have to do. Sell the house. Whatever mom!
Don't let me go down for something I didn't do!"
PUNCH! JAB! RIGHT CROSS! Right in my heart! My head!
A groan rises but is pushed down by fear.
They won't tell me where my son is. I don't know where my son is. He is lost in a system of horror, lost in bars and locks and chains and violence. I can't find my son! Finally I see him in court, shackles on his ankles, walking with chains dragging the floor, a waist guard with his hands chained to his stomach, a flack jacket on his body that causes him to look even more like a child. Guards with guns trained on my son....ON MY SON!
KIDNEY PUNCH! RIGHT CROSS! LEFT HOOK!
Screams rise in me. Anguished cries. MY SON! MY SON!
Eight by ten room, lights always on, disorienting my son, no contact, no sound, alone with his fear. Left alone to survive solitary torture. No sound but the screams from other cells, no shower, no touch. Is it day? Is it night? What day is it? Cement raised block, 2 inch foam mattress, he can't sleep....where is the world?
I see him, dark circles, hair standing up, drawn, tears, fear....so much fear.
PUNCH IN THE GUT! CAN"T BREATH! can't breath can't breath
FIGHT LIKE A GLADIATOR, PUSH THROUGH REJECTION, THROUGH HATE.
Two and a half years since I hugged my son...only a face through scratched plexi - glass. Finally a hug. Finally we touch hands as we talk about his choice. HIS CHOICE! HE QUIT! HE TOOK A PLEA! MY SON!!!
DOUBLE FISTS TO THE BACK OF MY NECK! I fall to my knees.....no, please no.
Victims cry, they hurl hate through the room, venomous hatred. They are consoled.
They cry and someone holds them.
They are in anguish....someone holds them. They suffer and their voice is heard.
MY SON! THEY TOOK MY SON! MY SON IS LOCKED IN HELL!
I CANNOT SAVE HIM! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!
Can anyone hear me? Can anyone hear me? Would someone please hold me?
Family gone, face all over the papers, people cross to the other side of the street.
MY SON! I CAN"T PROTECT MY SON!
BOOT TO MY RIBS! I can't get up. can anyone hear me?
Razor wire, guard towers, commanding voices through speakers, guards in the tower with guns, razor wire.
Large iron gates clang open, move through, more iron gates, move through. Metal detectors, pat down.
Chains, cuffs, he is so pale, he is so thin. Life is gone from his face.
"I had no choice mom, they wouldn't fight for me. They just wanted me gone. Now I am."
My anguish has turned to mortar, my grief the stones of my life, they bind me together.
My voice is silent.
Years later....a picture, a story, a hand on my shoulder, hope of a future....
And from my belly comes a cry of anguish.....a river that overflows.
The mortar gives way.
The stones crumble.
Fall in a heap on the ground.
Mother of an Incarcerated Youth
“No one believes that locking a teenager in a closet is an effective way to improve either their behavior or their character, much less to protect them long term,” Kysel said. “Young people have rights and needs that are different from adults; jail and prison practices should reflect those differences and promote their ability to grow and change – we should invest in youth, not banish them.”
A little know fact concerning our current justice system....97% of all cases are resolved with a plea agreement. Our current understanding is that criminals are charged, they are held until trial, they get a fair trial and are convicted based on their guilt. This is not true.
I will give you an example of justice today by sharing what happened to Jonny. The prosecution buries a client with charges, most of which they know will be dismissed later but they put pressure on the defendant. With mounting charges, fear and the punishment looming over their heads they are crushed....backs against the wall....with no way of escape. In Jonny's case the prosecution continued to add charges to his case two years after his arrest. This was to pressure him into taking a plea agreement. As they continued to stack charge after charge on him, he thought it less and less likely that he could ever prove his innocence.
This is the tactic used by most prosecutor's today. Charges are levied against the defendant and the ramification of the charges is made real by the possibility of time spent in prison. It is at the point when a defendant realizes the possible time that they could spend in prison that the prosecutor offers a plea agreement. The defendant is told that if they plead guilty to a lesser charge that the punishment will not be so harsh. Even if the defendant is innocent, they will consider the plea agreement because they feel powerless against the justice system.
Jonny held out for 2 1/2 years because he would never admit guilt for something he did not do. When the prosecution finally offered a plea agreement that reduced his culpability, he took it. Why? Not because it was in his best interest, not because it was just but because he believed he would never be given justice anyway. He believed that he had no chance at justice.
This story plays out all across our nation every day. When we do not follow our system of justice all the way to trial we loose. It is like going to a used car lot. We want the best deal and the salesman wants the best commission. We offer low, they counter high until there is an agreement met or until we walk away. People charged with crimes cannot walk away and go look for a better deal. They can only watch as others bargain with their very lives and future.
In May of 2012 in Aurora Colorado, a 6 year old boy was suspended for sexual harassment because he sang the words to a popular song to a classmate in the lunch line at school.
From the NY Daily News
"We have policies and protocol in place to prevent any disruption to the learning environment," spokeswoman Paula Hans wrote. "Due to privacy laws, we are unable to discuss appropriate disciplinary consequences about a specific student."
Critics say D'Avonte's case illustrates the problems with inflexible school policies.
"Sometimes when you go to a zero-tolerance policy, you end up with a zero-sense policy," Denver attorney Craig Silverman told the Associated Press."
This special needs boy was acting like....well...a boy. Trying to get attention and being a kid with no criminal intention. He was treated as an errant....not a child.
This is national Youth Justice Awareness Month which was started by a mother who's son committed suicide rather than face 30 years in prison. His story, the crime he was convicted of and the grim reality of our justice system is a stark reminder that we must change the way we treat our children.
I am using this month to present facts that every parent and every child should know. We cannot protect our children, educate them or help them to navigate in this world unless we are armed with the truth.
FACT NUMBER ONE:
Your child, through zero tolerance policies can and will be remanded into the custody of juvenile detention facilities for minor infractions that were once handled through counseling, disciplinary actions and activities that redirected behavior. This puts your child on the outside of the education system, outside of his peer group and outside of future education or activities that may very well have shaped his/her future.
When did we become some fearful, so draconian that we had zero tolerance for children or their behaviors?
Follow this link to Jonny's Etsy Art Shop