There is a common misconception in our country, that our legal system is good and just and fair. There is a common misconception that we are civil and progressive and community and human focused. You would think, with all the public outcry over individual rights, human rights and over health and healthy communities, that we would be diligent over justice policies, arrest, prosecution and all criminal prosecution. We are not. We have no accountability, no oversight. We are responsible for some of the most reprehensible human treatment in the western world. We are responsible for some of the worst miscarriages of justice and we make no apologies, only excuses, for our mistakes.
I want to bring before you, two examples of how justice functions in our nation. I want you to consider with sincere heart these examples and then ask yourself, who have we become? Who are we as a nation? What can we possibly offer as reason for this reprehensible actions? Is this who we are? Is this healthy?
Isn't there a better way?
This girl was charged as an adult for the death of her grandmother when her grandmother died from a heart attack after the two had argued. She was 16 years old at the time that her grandmother, her primary care giver, died and she was charged as a criminal in her death. She was initially transferred to adult court and therefore held in an adult jail. She was broken, hurting, grieving and fighting for her future as a CHILD.
Story Here - Words Can't Explain
The next example is from a recent settlement in a civil law suit against a county in New Mexico. Stephen Slevin had been arrested and charged with a DWI. He NEVER had a hearing and was never convicted of a crime yet he spent 22 months in solitary confinement at the county jail. He was eventually released and brought a suit against the county to shed light on the conditions of confinement at this jail. Remember, this man never had his day in court. Story Here - Two year Ordeal In Soitary
Every day there are stories of exoneration's for those wrongfully convicted. Those exoneration's come after 10, 15 and 20 years of court battles. Then there are the stories of those executed who were proved innocent AFTER their death. We house juvenile offenders in adult jails in solitary confinement. We lock men and women away for long years as punishment for crimes and we do not care for them. We feed them crap food, give them no education, no counseling, no rehabilitation, we don't give them positive life skills and we do not train them for the work force. We lock them away, dehumanize them in every way we can and then believe that we are building healthy strong communities.
We have an opportunity, here in Colorado, to make meaningful, lasting changes in our juvenile justice policies. We have been handed the golden opportunity for reform through the recent Supreme Court rulings on juvenile life. It could be a spring board to begin healthy rehabilitation practices and stop throwing away or giving up on children. From the looks of it, we don't have the guts.
So these scenarios will continue to play out in America, land of the brave, home of the free.
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