The landscape of juvenile justice is slowly changing. We are coming to realize the need for this change.
Today I want to help drive home the reason for the need to change our policies of transferring juveniles into adult court with adult sentences and prison. Today I want you to remember what you were like when you were 15 years old. What were your concerns? What was your focus? What were your responsibilities? What were your greatest challenges and disappointments? Now what were you doing when you were 17 years old? What was your focus, what held your attention? What were your responsibilities and dreams? What were your greatest challenges? What were your priorities? What were your greatest failures as a kid?
Now fast forward to 30 years of age. What were you like then? What was your focus, your dream? What responsibilities and challenges did you have? What were your priorities? What were your failures?
From age 15 to age 30 we see incredible changes in people. At age 15 a person's focus in on peer groups, sports, a peaking interest in the opposite sex, entertainment and, if they are reminded often, their chores. We manage their lives, their decisions, their travels and the influences around them as best we can. Why? Because we know that 15 year old's do not make the best decisions and the decisions that they make come from need and emotion....not reason. At 17 we are battling with them over their independence, trying to get them to focus on the future long enough to set an intelligent course and encouraging them to find out what purpose, skill and talent is held inside them.
When we look at the same person at age 30 it is "amazing transformation time". They have started a career path, maybe started a family or married a special someone. They are making wise, rational decisions with a reasonable mind and they have found focus and direction.
Why this incredible change? MATURITY. When youth commit crimes, even horrible crimes such as murder, they are that youthful person with limited rational ability. They tried to fly and harmed a lot of people in the process. That doesn't mean that we throw them away. That means we pick them up, dust them off, put them in time out, then help them to become strong responsible people and let them fly again.
I advocate for the end to long prison sentences for juveniles, not because someone MAKES me.....because it is THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
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