Why should you support Second Look legislation to tackle the issue of youth punishment in the state of Texas? Here are two reasons:
LONGSTANDING GOVERNING REGULATIONS
As a nation, we view those under the age of eighteen to be youth. The U.S. Supreme Court and the American Bar Association stand firm to this as well. On a world stage, the U.N. and the E.U. likewise set adulthood at this age. Texas, along with virtually every other state has long-standing governing regulations that treat those under eighteen to be too immature to make rational decisions for themselves. They are treated in the manner for which they are … children.
They are not allowed to vote, buy tobacco, acquire tattoos or body piercings. They are not permitted entrance into bars, or nightclubs. They are prohibited from viewing movies of X-rated content. They remain under guardianship and must adhere to legal curfews until the age of eighteen. They cannot marry, or enter into contracts, or even acquire a job with the government. Because they are deemed less than adults, they cannot rent a motel room, or even adopt a puppy from the pound.
The list of regulations goes on and on, but the one that should be noted the most is this: They are deemed too young and incompetent to serve on a jury. Yet, they are ironically deemed old enough and competent enough to be tried by one! In virtually every sense, those under the age of eighteen are kids and treated as such until the law is broken. Then, inexplicably, their adolescence appears to no longer matter in the eyes of the justice system.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
During the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, violent crime committed by youth rose significantly. As a result, Princeton political scientist John Dilulio predicted a coming age of “tens of thousands of gravely morally impoverished juvenile ‘superpredators'”, he claimed, “that would fear neither the stigma of arrest nor the pain of imprisonment.”
Anticipating the possibilities of Dilulio’s theory, lawmakers across the land began passing legislation toughening state sentencing guidelines that circumvented the vital line between adult crime and crime committed by youth to such an extent that age quickly became a non-mitigating factor.
The new “Tough on Crime” doctrine, coupled with entrenching fears of the coming “superpredator”, set in motion punishments reaching into draconian proportions never before seen. We began witnessing our nation’s youth being sent away with sentences far surpassing the punishment of even some of the most seasoned adult criminals.
The phenomenon of the “superpredators” never transpired, but in its wake, correctional facilities across our land have found themselves housing adults who have spent over half of their life imprisoned for crimes committed as kids. The overwhelming majority of these youth convictions came as first-time encounters with the law. Many of them were offenses where no loss of life occurred.
Years after his prediction, Dilulio retracted his words and apologized for any unintended consequences! Unfortunately, those unintended consequences have left a long rippling effect on the justice system, American taxpayers, and so many youth offenders, their families, and their communities.
Support Second Look Legislation to curtail and prevent our “justice” system from effectively taking the lives of our youth, and instead reintroduce the concept of the punishment fitting the crime with respect to underage or minor citizen’s who are charged with a crime.