Life Imprisonment For Juveniles? How Could That Make Sense?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court began to, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “mull” over life sentences for juveniles.

What’s to mull? How in the world can putting juveniles in prison for life make any sense at all? Even if they’ve murdered someone?

In 2010 the court decided that putting them to death was indeed a bad idea. I was horrified that it had ever happened or even needed to be heard in this country which used to pride itself on progressive ideas. But at least the Supremes made it illegal.

The cases the court is deciding today both involve black boys who were 14 when the killings occurred. Do you remember what it was like to be 14 years old?

According to the Journal article, Alabama’s solicitor general, John Neiman responded to a question by Justice Kennedy, “”Retribution, Justice Kennedy, would be the primary goal, bringing society’s retributive force to bear on those who commit the worst sort of crimes.”

Retribution? Against 14 year-olds?

Whatever happened to rehabilitation? Whatever happened to forgiveness? Whatever happened to a sense of proportion, that the ‘punishment should fit the crime’? How about some compassion?

The same article states we have 2,300 juveniles in prision without the possibility of parole. As far as I’m concerned one is too many.

I don’t know any more than what I read about these two cases. I can’t imagine what the relatives of the victims must feel.

I am convinced however that retribution isn’t the answer.

How do we protect ourselves from kids? We address proactively the problems that make them crazy. We turn the other cheek and teach love not hate. We learn to stop racism and to provide as much real equal opportunity as we can figure out how to do – and then we do some more.

We work to protect black children as much as we work to protect white children. And we start that by admitting there is a problem – in Alabama, in Florida and in my own back yard right here in San Diego – everywhere in the country in fact.

I work to confront my own now largely unconscious racism and to spot the institutional racism that’s so hard to see. I also work for social justice, largely through presenting Awakening The Dreamer symposiums. I also talk about these issues with my friends and work to have friends that don’t look like me.

Each and every one of us can help restore sanity to this country if we get involved – if we register people to vote, if we insist our elected representatives from the most local to the very top act in rational ways. Call, write, and talk with each other.

What will you do?

Love and blessings,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks


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