3.23.2008

justice, american style

No child left behind. Except the ones we leave behind. That's family values for you. From Reuters, via Common Dreams:
Underage criminals cannot face the death penalty in the United States but dozens of offenders imprisoned for crimes committed when they were young teenagers will still die behind bars.

The U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for minors in 2005 but 19 states permit "life-means-life" sentences for those under 18, according to a study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

In all, 2,225 people are sentenced to die in U.S. prisons for crimes they committed as minors and 73 of them were aged 13 and 14 at the time of the crime, according to the group, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama.

Elsewhere in the world, life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for underage offenders. Human Rights Watch estimates that only 12 people outside the United States face such sentences.

Judicial reform advocates say the U.S. provision is an example of how harsh sentences have helped cause a jump in incarceration rates since the 1970s. The United States jails a higher percentage of its population than anywhere else in the industrialized world, these advocates say.

"These kids have been swept up in this tide of carceral control that is unparalleled in American history," said Bryan Stevenson, director of the EJI. "We have become quite comfortable about throwing people away," he said.

Full story here.

This article doesn't say, but what percentage of these incarcerated young people come from impoverished backgrounds, do you think? Should we hazard a guess?

What percentage do you think are people of colour?

Do you think there's a kid from a wealthy background among them? Do you think if a family has money to hire a decent lawyer, or pay off a judge, or donate to their community, their child gets a life sentence?

Here's the EJI report the story is based on. Take a look. Bring your outrage, and a tissue.

15 comments:

James said...

The irony of the "culture of life" promoted by the Republicans.

L-girl said...

Democrats too. A lot of this happened under that big "liberal", Clinton.

redsock said...

It's the one American industry that's thriving.

1 out of every 100 Americans is behind bars.

M@ said...

When are they going to outsource this overseas?

As for your questions, I'll guess 80% of the incarcerated are not white, and 100% are from impoverished backgrounds.

A question: does the American left (referring to the larger group) recognize the race and crime issue as primarily a poverty issue? I don't see much acknowledgement of that in Canada and I'm wondering if it's the same, better, or worse in the USA.

L-girl said...

As for your questions, I'll guess 80% of the incarcerated are not white, and 100% are from impoverished backgrounds.

The 100% is certainly correct. I haven't gotten to the other figure yet. 80% is a good bet.

A question: does the American left (referring to the larger group) recognize the race and crime issue as primarily a poverty issue?

Yes. Or, they recognize crime as a race and poverty issue. They recognize that crime is intimately tied to poverty and often to race as well, since the justice system is so biased.

Anyone have any other thoughts on that?

M. Yass said...

Elsewhere in the world, life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for underage offenders.

My understanding is that so-called LWOP sentences are rare elsewhere in the world full stop. In Canada, I think everyone can apply for parole after 20 years or something.

L-girl said...

Canadians complain a lot about parole. Someone at my workplace (just now - I mean *right now*) was saying Canada should be more like the US, tough on crime. Because in the US, she said, people respect the law more. The law is not a "joke" like it is in Canada.

I gave her some info on the death penalty in the uS and on child incarceration. She was shocked.

She was even more shocked to hear that, despite all this "toughness", the US is a more violent society with less respect for the law than Canada.

Funny how that works.

M. Yass said...

redsock said...

It's the one American industry that's thriving.


We have a winner!

Keep in mind that most new prisons built today are private and run for profit. The Corrections Corp. of America, for instance, is traded on the NYSE. Additionally, many states have outsourced prison medical care to private companies, most notably a company called Correctional Medical Services. That company routinely hires doctors and PAs who have lost their licences.

Incidentally, Canada (well, Ontario anyway) rejected private incarceration.

M. Yass said...

redsock said...

It's the one American industry that's thriving.


It's a bit broader than that. The fear industry (security, surveillance equipment, etc.) is thriving.

L-girl said...

It's a bit broader than that. The fear industry (security, surveillance equipment, etc.) is thriving.

You're right of course, but the fear industry is thriving elsewhere too - in the UK and Canada, for example. But the prison industry is the US's own special child.

L-girl said...

Good info on privatization, too.

Privatisation. Not sure I'll get used to that "...sation" spelling.

Amy said...

they recognize crime as a race and poverty issue. They recognize that crime is intimately tied to poverty and often to race as well, since the justice system is so biased.

I think that is right. American liberals assume that most crimes are committed by poor people, and that most poor people, at least in urban areas, are members of racial minorities. I think most realize that much crime is also somehow related to drugs.

On the other hand, I am not sure most Americans in general realize that most victims of crime are also poor people who are members of racial minorities.

L-girl said...

On the other hand, I am not sure most Americans in general realize that most victims of crime are also poor people who are members of racial minorities.

Ah, excellent point.

I'll add that we're talking only about violent crime. Wall Street crime is a different story.

AMneverperish said...

Hello from the UK.

We are regarded as quite a tolerant and liberal society (aren't we?).

But we have educated people who still think that there is something inherently more criminal about black people because more of them are arrested.

Yet a very rich man can commit perjury and some educated people say he didn't deserve jail 'because he's clever'.

These are our future business leaders speaking, so I'm sure they will contribute to a fair and just society in future.

And an illegal migrant Brazilian man was shot eight times in the head at point blank range as part of a police action related to a possible suicide bomb.
He was innocent, but people swallowed the lies that were initially released to the media.
His assailants remained un-named and unpunished.
He had 'Mongolian eyes' apparently.
But hey, that was three years ago.

We do have four satellite History channels here. Nearly every day, three of them are devoted to Hitler and World War Two. Today it was 'Hitler's Women'.

PS Yet another series of 'Big Brother' starts soon, so more people can forget where the original term comes from and compare the latest batch of desperadoes.

'Ignorance is strength', someone once wrote.

L-girl said...

And an illegal migrant Brazilian man was shot eight times in the head at point blank range as part of a police action related to a possible suicide bomb.
He was innocent, but people swallowed the lies that were initially released to the media.
His assailants remained un-named and unpunished. He had 'Mongolian eyes' apparently. But hey, that was three years ago.


Greetings. I remember it well. It's on this blog, I believe. I even remember his name. Heartbreaking. Enraging