As this moving blog demonstrates, people who have honestly and openly wrestled with the idea of Juvenile Justice and Sentencing issues must inevitable reach a point where they see that, as our justice system stands now, it is incapable of giving youthful offenders the chance at rehabilitation that they deserve while simultaneously giving them the correction that their crime demands.
It is no surprise that we as a society find ourselves in this situation. Life can be brutal, and especially so for children. The number of violent crimes committed by minors is direct proof that we as a society have made some enormous errors, somewhere along the way. For example, we rightly condemn forced sterilization, but at the same time do nothing to protect innocent babies born to drug addicted prostitute mothers. We set up a foster care system that too often takes children from one abusive situation only to place them in a worse one.
Conservatives who preach ad nauseam about “traditional family values” are among the first in line to turn their backs on the possibility of meaningful reform to the current foster care system, preferring to insist that the state has no place coming between a child and has/her parents. I would love to whole heartedly agree with them, but for the fact that they cannot see that their ideology depends upon the parents actually being parents. It is not enough to insist that the government stay out of peoples lives. What has to be realized is that the government should only stay out of peoples lives when the people show that they are capable of living those lives responsibly. On the other hand, liberals whose hearts bleed for every young person in jail are the first to turn their backs on the very real and painful plight of the victims and their families. Yet apart from these two view points, what else is there?
As the number of broken homes and children in foster care continues to grow, as membership in violent gangs grows, and as the number of minors behind bars increases, we as a society cannot sit back and rely on our justice system, designed for adults, to adequately dispense justice.
Yet the question remains, what else is there? It is a heinous idea to argue that the government take some sort of active role in preventing the birth of a child into a certain set of circumstances. It is an impossible idea to argue that any governmental, or private, entity can provide for the thousands of children trapped in our deeply flawed foster care system. Yet again, what else is there?
Until that question is answered, miscarriages of justice in the name of being “tough on crime” will continue, young people will continue to be ineptly dealt with by a justice system not equipped or intended to deal with them, and violence and social decay will continue to advance in our national statistical studies.
It is time we looked at ourselves in the mirror and for once honestly asked ourselves to answer the question, what else is there?.