On Locking Up Teens

| Thu Apr. 9, 2009 2:17 AM EDT

From CNN: It began as horseplay, with two teenage stepbrothers chasing each other with blow guns and darts. But it soon escalated when one of the boys grabbed a knife.

The older teen, Michael Barton, 17, was dead by the time he reached the hospital. The younger boy, Quantel Lotts, 14, would eventually become one of Missouri's youngest lifers...Lotts is one of at least 73 U.S. inmates—most of them minorities—who were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes committed when they were 13 or 14, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Alabama that defends indigent defendants and prisoners."
The 73 are just a fraction of the more than 2,000 offenders serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors under the age of 18.

Now that you've had some time to understandably fart, a la Life of Brian, in "[Lotts'] general direction," let's take a moment to remember who we are as the people we proclaim to the world we are. You remember 'us'? The people who believe in the rule of law.

Bad as it is that most of these kids are minorities, worse is that some of them are serving life without parole for non-murder, however horrific their crimes were.

I've been the victim of violent crime and had family members actually maimed for life and murdered, so it's not that I'm soft on crime. But I am soft on double standards. Trying kids as adults, as a category in itself, I find horribly unjust. Either you're a kid or you're not. No matter how mature a kid is, we don't let them vote til they're 18, drive til they're 16, drink, see dirty movies or marry until they're whatever that age is in your state. In law school, I was taught that this is your basic 'one way ratchet' and, by definition, to be viewed with suspicion.

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