JUSTICE SYSTEM GONE AWRY – BUSTING CHILDREN

Have we gone nuts?

A ten year old child brings a steak knife to school in Ocala. She’s caught cutting her meat at lunch, and then arrested as though she was a serial killer on the loose. Perhaps a sharp knife was inappropriate on school grounds, which is a good reason to confiscate, teach her a lesson, admonish her parents and send her on her way. But why whack the fifth grader with a formal arrest as though she had committed a crime?

That’ll give a growing kid a warm and secure feeling about the law.

A first grader in Avon Park, Florida, lost control and acted out in class, kicking and scratching. That’s bad. She obviously has a problem. Teachers called the cops, who came and handcuffed her for restraint. Okay, I can even live with that. Then child — a six-year-old — was brought to police headquarters and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. Huh?

When did common sense lose it’s foothold in America? Years ago, we’d read stories like this in communist China.

Moses Lake, Washington, 2006. Seven juveniles were taken into custody and arrested for vandalism and theft. Two of these were five and six years of age. The others were closer to twelve. Whatever happened to laws about contributing to the delinquency of minors? Locking up five year-old children as criminals? There must be another way to handle these kinds of situations.

December, 2006, a twelve year-old boy in South Carolina was arrested by police for petty larceny for — get this — opening his Christmas present without authorization. When his mother learned that he had opened the $85 Nintendo game without her permission, she called the cops to teach him a lesson, and the cops made the bust. Honest. Read for yourself. Click here: Boy Arrested

September, 2006, Pleasant Grove, Utah. A teenage prankster streaked naked across a stage during a school play. There are children in the audience. He’s pretty stupid. He needs punishment. He got it. The kid is facing criminal charges for which he will likely be required to register as a sex offender for life. His name, address and photograph will be available on the Internet as warnings to citizens that this boy is a predator and to protect your kids. He’ll be unable to find jobs. He’ll be the instant suspect in unsolved sex crimes. A lifetime of retribution, for a silly stunt that has nothing to do with sexually offending anyone.

Honor student and football player, Genarlow Wilson was seventeen years old when he received consensual oral sex from a fifteen year-old girl in Georgia in 2005. Uh…that’s an every day event by the thousands in all fifty states. But, the laws in Georgia mandated a ten-year sentence for the (ahem) sex offense with a minor child. Genarlow was ultimately released by a compassionate judge after serving two years in prison. Still, he must register as a dangerous sex offender for life.

I think we’re using a sledge hammer to kill the bug. Serious crimes certainly need to be addressed by the criminal justice system, but we’ve gone over the top with the tough-on-crime mantra.

I’m sure glad I retired when I did. I served in an era when judgement and common sense prevailed, when a cop had the option to send a DUI driver home in a taxi cab, or kick kids in the ass for raising hell at a party, send lover’s lane sexpots off to motel rooms and scare the hell out of truants and other youngsters who dabbled in pot. I had the latitude to make humane decisions about minor indiscretions, always aware of how an arrest would affect the rest of a kid’s life. I feel comfortable that I, and many of my colleagues, saved some young people from entering the oppressive walls of the justice system as criminals when it wasn’t in the best interest of justice.

Sure, I know all about the law, and my job was merely to enforce. I did that. I made over two thousand arrests in my career. But I also made a few unarrests for which I am proud, for I know in those few instances, I precluded a lifetime of obstacles and stigma for the undeserving because I decided to give the “offenders” a pass.

When it comes to showing small kids the strong arm of the law, there’s another way, besides jails and handcuffs. It’s called, education treatment, compassion and guidance.

When a system can label people for life as sex offenders, when they are not, then something needs to be fixed.

In today’s world, the hands of police officers are tied, they dare not make decisions. It’s all spelled out. Break the law, pay the price. Even if the price is a million dollars for a stick of bubble gum.

They better not come for my grandson while he’s still in diapers, even if he does throw a tantrum.