We have finally made significant gains concerning the issue of direct file in Colorado. Until this year, the DA's office could transfer a juvenile case into adult court without a transfer hearing. It is now possible for a juvenile transfer case to receive a hearing and a judge will decide if the juvenile should be treated as an adult. This is to protect a juvenile offender from unnecessary publicity that would otherwise hinder his rehabilitation process and his return to his community as a productive member. At all times the best interest of the juvenile and the restoration of the family should be important. Even in the case of felony crimes or murder.
I grew up during this time. I turned 18 in 1976. I remember some events that would have turned out completely different if they happened today. One of my friends was drag racing one night. The car he was driving lost traction and he went off the road. It paralyzed him. He was ticketed for careless driving and the ticket was reduced to a speeding ticket. No one sued the other teen that he was racing, no one tried to haul my friend off to court and throw the book at him. Everyone gathered around the family and tried to help them adjust to their sons new disability. It didn't make a big news story, it didn't turn into a vendetta by the police department against young drivers.....it was a young man's mistake.
I had a friend that was getting ready to cross a street at a very busy high school intersection. A young person made a right turn and hit him breaking both of his legs. The young driver was ticketed for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a cross walk. The drivers insurance company paid for his medical and everyone forgave each other and thanked God that my friend was alive. No one went to court, no one sued, no one turned it into a vicious crime....it was an accident.
One of the star players on the girls basketball team was taken out of practice one day because she was over dosing on drugs. They took her out in an ambulance, called her parents and rushed her to the hospital. They did not arrest her on drug charges, they did not plaster her name in the papers, they did not turn her into a criminal....they helped her.
One afternoon my friend was home with his siblings and other friends. They were looking at his fathers gun when it went off and instantly killed my friends brother. No one took my friend into custody, pending investigation. No one plastered the family name all over the paper. No one questioned whether these might be gang members (because of ethnicity). No one assumed that there was any foul play. It was a fatal accident that ripped through a family and we all came along side.
One of my friends was backing out of a driveway on his way to school. The driveway sloped to the street. He didn't know that the little neighbor boy was out riding his tricycle. When he backed up, he hit the little boy and it took a minute for him to realize there was a strange noise coming from under the car. The little boy died. My friend was devastated. No one arrested him and labeled him a murderer. No one plastered his name all over the paper. No one made him out to be a monster. It was an accident.......that caused him pain for a long time. Yet he was given the opportunity to deal with that pain privately in the comfort of family and friends. No additional drama was added to the already tragic event.
This is what happens when a community takes responsibility for the actions and mistakes of their young people. Kids make dumb choices and mistakes. The most dangerous time for any mother is during the time their children are trying their wings....learning to fly solo. Sometimes the short flight takes them close to a predator, sometimes the short flights takes them into dangerous territory, sometimes the flight takes them into a situation where they must judge how to maneuver through and they fail. But that is how you learn to fly. I began searching to see how the rest of the world dealt with their juveniles. It was surprising. The Philippines, Brazil and other countries believe that juvenile offences should be dealt with by the tribal or council elders. They take care of punishment, retribution and restoration between all parties.
Then in my process to find information, I came across a very interesting web site called: Juvenile Justice Panel. This web site gives the United Nations Agreements on Juvenile Justice Issues. It talks about international conferences on juvenile justice and lists the juvenile justice policies for all United Nations Members. The United Nations believes that the rights and needs of a juvenile offender should be protected at all costs and at all times. The focus should always be training, education, cognitive development and a program designed to returning the juvenile offender to their community. The UN council also gives special attention to the holding and treatment of the accused and reminds all nations of their innocence until proven guilty. Therefore a juvenile offender charged with a crime should be held in the most careful of situations until the offender has completed the hearings process. Germany believes that a juvenile should be incarcerated only as a last resort and that the maximum term that any juvenile offender can serve is 10 years. The juvenile offenders are always housed in juvenile facilities. Most of these nations focus on cognitive behavior, education, skills training, meaningful work and a program designed for liberty at the end of the sentence.
We did not have these measures in place over the last 20 years. We condemned, brutalized and threw away juveniles, giving them outrageous prison sentences. We, as a society decided we did not want to take the time to rehabilitate or restore these young people. It is time to Turn Back The Clock on juvenile sentences and give these young people a second chance. Follow the link above to our on line petition and give
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