Don't be 'tough' so much as 'smart'

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In the March 26 editorial "Adult crime, adult justice," the editorial board asserts that Georgia law should be amended to allow the trial of children ages 12 and younger as adults.

This proposed change is a deeply disturbing example of our society's failure to respond effectively to youth crime. While the murder allegedly committed by a 21-year-old adult and his 12-year old accomplice is undeniably horrifying, it is important that state policymakers consider all the available evidence before they overhaul Georgia law.

The persistent perception that youth crime is spiraling out of control has led to punitive laws in nearly every state that funnel more youths into adult courts and adult jails. In reality, juvenile violent crime has been falling sharply since 1993, according to recent U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

Furthermore, children are different from adults in fundamental ways. Adolescent brain research reveals that the part of the brain involved in decision-making and impulse control continues to develop through age 25, which is why we won't let a child see an R-rated movie or buy alcohol.

Most importantly, research evidence has consistently shown that trying youths in the adult courts increases, not decreases, the risk of further crime. This is largely because of the lack of mental health, employment, and educational programs for youths in the adult system, as well as the heightened risk of suicide, sexual abuse and violent assault for youths in adult jails.

None of this is to say the offender should go unpunished, only that he should receive sanctions appropriate to his age, maturity and culpability in the crime. We must put an end to "tough on crime" policies that make our society more dangerous, and become "smart on crime" by focusing on our juvenile justice system and its capacity for rehabilitation.

Thaddeus Jackson, Lilburn

(The writer is executive director of the Georgia chapter of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants.)

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patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/05/08 - 02:30 am
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While most of what Mr Lilburn

While most of what Mr Lilburn states is true, the 12 year old that commits a calculated, cold blooded murder has a mind set that is unlikely to be changed and only a fool would ever put this person in a position to hurt someone ever again. An immature mind that has gone this far off track, is never likely to mature to the point of responsibility and trust, regardless of the mental health help or environmental change he may receive. If life without chance of parole is the sentence,(and from a socially safe standpoint, it's the only sentence) then where does suicide, sexual abuse, or violent assault enter into the equation?

DeborahElliott2
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DeborahElliott2 04/05/08 - 05:12 am
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Pat, I somewhat disagree with

Pat, I somewhat disagree with your statement. If a boy that young was ever placed in a jail cell with an adult, then you would be correct to think that this kid will never mature to be trustworthy ever again. Only because of what he will be taught from the adult he is with in that cell. "Birds of a feather" so to speak. Sex abuse would happen in that cell as well as assault and you know that! If the boy were in isolation for a certain amount of time, he would want company and socialism. Kinda like a brainwashing technique where you get the boy to perform acceptable behavior so as to become a more trustworthy and "responsible" adult is an alternative for him. In this way, you provide this boy with only social behaviors that give acceptable guidance that will actually benefit the boy and those around him. He is still young, and no I don't condone his actions on the murder so don't get me wrong. I just say that if the boy is mixed up with more hoodlums, then that is all you will get--another hoodlum. Mix him up with a person or people who only give good behaviors, and you change his as well. Every shrink will tell you this has a possibility of 80% change for the better.

christian134
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christian134 04/05/08 - 06:57 am
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The children of today have

The children of today have become very desentized to many forms of humanity. They have a huge problem in determining right from wrong. This has created a type of individual that is not only frightening but down right horrifying. The family has dengenerated so far over the past few decades that children are being produced and thrown away like so much trash. This trend has continued at an alarming rate to a point where society has created a group of people who rely on "whoever feeds, clothes them, and gives them whatever they have without consequence" mentality. The adults that feed off these abandoned children will reap their rewards one day but until then we, who are left at the mercy of these children/monsters, must be protected. I have no clue what the answer is but it must be found and soon. The growing gangs in this nation has become out of control. It is a subculture that waits with open arms for all the rejects to come running to them and come they will as long as they are abused, tortured by so-called polite society. Pray for the children but also pray that the "parents" begin acting like parents. I have a little secret people being a parent entails more than procreating.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/05/08 - 08:37 am
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DE2, it's my contention that

DE2, it's my contention that once a child has taught himself that killing is acceptable, no matter how he's treated after that he'll always "know" that killing is ok. Even if he says otherwise, he already knows. And it IS just like brainwashing, it's call initial lesson.

jack
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jack 04/05/08 - 10:14 am
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Give the young murderers the

Give the young murderers the needle and we don't have to worry about them being in adult prisons and its influence on them.

christian134
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christian134 04/05/08 - 10:35 am
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Hey there Jack and good

Hey there Jack and good morning..... it's good to see ya:-)

KSL
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KSL 04/05/08 - 10:54 am
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Take the third graders who

Take the third graders who were plotting to murder their teacher. Just letting them off the hook is not acceptable. Nor is turning them back over to their parents who have obviously already failed child rearing.

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 04/05/08 - 11:07 am
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If the death penalty was

If the death penalty was actually enforced as it should be, we would have more room in jail and more money and resources to rehabilitate those who actually have a chance for it. And here was my suggestion in another section for the gangs.. it would help out.. this is also called being smart on crime since they don't want to be tough with the laws. Gang members are nothing more than scared little lazy incompetent punks... idiots with no concious and no brains. Round em all up advertise a big ol gang brawl in a field all weapons allowed and let them go to it. Don't stop them and lock the fences so the chicken craps can't run. Hopefully enough of them will kill each other off to slow the crime a little. They should do it once a month. We should have a majority gone in no time. This world would be better off without all these gangbangers... I wouldn't lose any sleep over the 100's killed off!!!!!! We would have more room in jails, safe streets, safer kids, and would save the taxpayers a heap!

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/05/08 - 01:37 pm
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I find the "third grade

I find the "third grade plotters" to be similar to my plan to fly off the roof of my house when I was eleven. I had the best towel in the house as a cape and planned my attempt over a recently dug up piece of ground (just in case my first attempt didn't go as smoothly as I had calculated). If at this time, just before the flight, someone had stopped me and said I was about to commit suicide, and started me in a program of psychotherapy, most people would say there was a little over reaction to a perfectly normal flight attempt. I feel this is what happened to the 9 year olds with their famous plot. The planning is easy, it's the execution that leads to a whole new understanding. Had the "vicious and dangerous" third graders attempted to carry out their plan, what would have been the result? I know that at the ripe old age of 57, I'm confident that if I felt threatened by a dozen third graders, I shouldn't be allowed in public. The rest of this story would ruin the "good copy" as spun into the current story. In real life, I find the "plot of the third graders" ludicrous, at best.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/05/08 - 01:42 pm
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By the bye, my own personal

By the bye, my own personal attempt at flight was a resounding success. I sat on the roof and went through the entire flight in my mind. Soaring over the neighborhood and observing every day life from above. After considering the 15 minute flight ( my planned time in the air) I decided I'd be wasting my time seeing things I see every day anyway. I climbed off of the roof and swore never to fly again.

TakeAstand
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TakeAstand 04/05/08 - 06:23 pm
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Attempting to fly off the

Attempting to fly off the roof to play of the house is a little bit different than plotting to murder a teacher for christ's sake!!!! They brought the weapons to school... how much closer do you want to get??? A broke steakknife could have been used to hurt anyone teacher another student that [filtered word] her off etc...... she was carrying it to hurt someone not just for show and tell. Now maybe she would't have the guts to do it... but she carries it to school intending on hurting this teacher... overboard?????? you don't think a dozen 3rd graders could hurt you with a bunch of weapons, especially kids with ADHD and other mental problems? I'm with the rest of the parents.. the one who brought the weapons... expell them!! I ask once again.. where is the real patriciathomas and what have you done with her????????? I usually can sense when you are being sarcastic but this isn't one of them!!!!

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/05/08 - 10:22 pm
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No sarcasm here TakeAstand. A

No sarcasm here TakeAstand. A dozen third graders don't scare me and can't out think me. That's why there are no third grade businesses, no third grade armies and no third grade government agencies....and they'll accept almost anyone. If a third grader doesn't have a loaded gun, cocked, I don't find them even a little intimidating. A broken steak knife? Please. This "news" story is insulting at best and National Enquirer material in reality. ADHD and mental problems and you are convinced they had a viable plot? While I find the situation interesting, I find it more of an April's fool quip. "Don't believe everything you read in the 'paper" is still good advice.

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