Douglas Christopher Thomas, 17 fatally shot his girlfriends parents as they slept in their home, according to the January 11th Minot Daily Newspaper. The girlfriends parents had been trying to end their relationship for months and out of frustration and anger Douglas went along with his 14-year-old girlfriends wishes. Should Douglas be liable for life in prison or even death row? In some states surprisingly he is, children even as young as thirteen are being sentenced as adults, and we maybe sentencing these kids to a certain death.
Even Juveniles committing the most heinous crimes need a separate court system.Juvenile justice is in need of a major overhaul. Since young children committing crimes are just starting their lives; children are more likely to learn from their mistakes and so can be rehabilitated. But this rehabilitation is not likely to happen in adult prisons.
The Dallas Morning News on October 5th investigated Mr. Thomas, the 32-year-old linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, about his juvenile arrests for auto theft. He has now been working to improve juvenile prevention programs. Thomas thinks, Every kid is not a bad kid. They may do bad things, but all they need is an opportunity. The juvenile justice system gave me that second chance, and our juveniles today deserve that second chance too.
As a matter of fact, on September 29th, the Washington Post Newspapers states, 60% of children who are referred to a juvenile court learn their lesson the first time. They never cause problems again. The public rarely hears the good news in the juvenile court systems. This alone tells us, they do deserve a second chance.
In early October Karen Peterson of USA Today interviewed the director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, and he explained, Locking kids up with adults horrifies many. Kids who do time in an adult facility are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those in juvenile facilities, eight times more likely to commit suicide, and twice as likely to be beaten by staff. Adult institutions are the worst alternatives to juvenile delinquents.
So do you think Christopher should be locked up for the rest of his life or even put on death row? The November Read magazine reports, nearly 200,000 children were tried as adults in 1998. Christopher pleaded a little too late, What I did when I was seventeen was wrong, and yes I should be punished. But to pay the ultimate price is a little extreme. On January 11, Christopher Thomas was executed by injection; he was 26 and received the most severe punishment for a childhood crime. Chris deserved a second chance, it is outrageous the thought of sending our children to prison for their entire lives, lets not allow one in 10 juveniles incarcerated to locked up in adult prisons anymore.
Adult Time for Adult Crime? Read Nov. 1999: 14-15
Juveniles get little rehabilitation. USA Today Fields, Gary 16 Dec. 1999
They say system needs to distinguish between troubled youths, criminals. Dallas Morning News Gay, Lance 5 Oct. 1999
Public clamors: Get tough at a tender age. USA Today Peterson, Karen 9 Oct. 1998
Regrettable regression in the way we treat young criminals. The Washington Post Mara, L. Sept. 29 1999