PHLO call to Kojo Nnamdi show on Juvenile Waivers
Over the last few weeks WAMU and NPR 88.5 FM have brought the Kojo Nnamdi show and its recent spotlight on juvenile justice as topic one. Today’s broadcast featured the not uncommon realty in the District of an increasing federal prosecution which is brought agasint serious juvenile offenders; teenagers who are never allowed to be heard in juvenile court but rather, are brought up on charges as any adult in criminal court.
Surely good people hold sincere and heartfelt, if wildly differing opinion on the subject of juvenile crime in our cities but some things just need saying when they are pushed so far far from the reality known to attorneys, judges and other juvenile justice profesionals.
Jeffrey Taylor, US Attorney for the District of Columbia and Patricia Riley, Special Counsel in the US Attorney’s office shared their views on the subject of kids prosecuted as adults who often are given life sentences for their crimes. But then the attoneys spoke of their conviction that the kind of overly harsh life destroying sentences handed ou to their teen defendants acted as a deterrence to other teens who might be thining of following a similiar path. We heard it stated as if gospel that other potential violent youth are deterred from committing crime since they must surely know they will be charged and prosecuted as adults for serious offenses, regardless of their atender age, since that’s what has happened to so many other teenagers.
Patrick Hoover joined in the conversation via telephone and quickly knocked the legs out from under the fallacious rationale of “deterrance“, put forth by the two top DC prosecutors, as justification for the increasingly common practice of locking up 15 year old kids with life sentences. Pat called on the US Attorney to admit publicly what study after study have clearly demonstarted: adolescents are simply not deterred in any measurable way from crime or juvenile behaviour as a result of the so-called deterrent example set by the aggressive prosecution of our youth through adult criminal prosecutions. In fact Mr. Taylor allowed as he was unaware of the several national studies that found otherwise.
Regrettably noth a lot was said in the hour long interview about the wholesale slaughter of many of the teens who are convicted and sentenced as adults to heavy prison sentences often for decades and longer. Juveniles who are removed from the juvenile court and brought to trial as if responsible adults, are subject to highly increased rates of suicide, sexual assault and victimization, loss of meaningful education and face litttle more than a predictable indoctrination of criminality from the adults with whom they are forced to join.
We applaud Kojpo Nnamdi for airing the important series his program has brought to listeners in Washington, DC.
To hear the radio program in its entirety, please click on this link and navigate to the March 25, 2009 Kojo Nnamdi show: http://wamu.org/programs/kn/