Monday, November 9, 2009

Throw Away the Key!

On Monday morning the Supremes hear the oral arguments in the cases that involve the question:  when we the people have had enough of juvenile offenders, can we lock 'em up and throw away the key?

For some reason, Florida (although, it is not the only state that does this) specializes in the practice of dealing with youth crime by incarcerating juvenile offenders for life.  In Graham v. Florida; and Sullivan V. Florida, the nine will grapple with the notion that the U.S. Constitution prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" applies to the practice of dealing with young criminals, um, permanently.  In Graham,   the court will deal with a young guy who was 17 at the time of the crime, burglary, for which he drew a life sentence.  Young Mr. Graham was not prize, at 17 he was already well on his way to lifetime career for burglary and theft, in one instance Mr. Graham was involved in the burglary of a Barbecue restaurant during which an accomplices smacked up the manager with a piece of steel pipe.  Let's just say Mr. Graham's absence from society is not missed.  The other kid, Mr. Sullivan is a real prince, too; at 13, Mr. Sullivan raped an elderly woman during a home invasion.  Kids.

But throw away the key?  Really?  Our answer to minors committing crimes is to say that there is no redemption, no way that we can rehabilitate these children?  When we throw away the key what are we saying about ourselves?  Impotent?  What are we saying about our values, particularly the value enshrined in the US Constitution prohibiting "cruel and unusual punishment?"  Does it the constitutional value have any meaning when we sanction the practice of warehousing children for life?  For life?

BTW, for future reference, all US Supreme Court cases can be followed almost in real time via:, huh?!

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