Finding a Fair Solution for Youth Offenders

What certitude do we have as a nation that sees no opportunity for the light of goodness to shine on even the most stone covered seed? This question comes to mind amidst the recent decision by the Supreme Court to hear two cases on the sentencing of youth to life in prison without parole.

For more than 2,500 incarcerated youth in our country, our federal justice system and state courts around the country have left them shrouded in despair, sentencing them to life without any chance for ever seeing light beyond the pale concrete confines of prison.  There actions, indeed, deserve retribution. However, the complexity of adolescents makes it difficult to see any good in a sentence that denies a young person any opportunity for rehabilitation.

The National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth does a good job of examining more closely the intricate details that encompass this issue that is clearly expected to gain more attention as the Supreme Court moves to hear the cases. Anyone looking to learn more about the subject should visit their web site.

Looking at it from a more broad vantage, George Bernard Shaw once said that youth is wasted on the young.  Yet this philosopher, I believe , has forgotten the trials of adolescence. Part of the learning experience and psychological development is grounded in the experiences we make. For those in prison, their experiences are rooted in the mistakes and bad decisions they made. And in their actions, there is the underlying principle of rehabilitation that should not be ignored.

Every person deserves the opportunity to have a second chance. anyone who remembers their own adolescents remembers the compassion that family, friends and teachers offered when we made our own mistakes.  The corrections system serves an important role in our society, believing that bad behavior has a chance to be corrected. I'm not saying that all behavior can be corrected. there are those who truly are unable to be rehabilitated. Though not giving them the chance to have this opportunity to be rehabilitated throws even heavier stones on the seed that took root in rocky ground.

Read more on The Opportunity Agenda's blog.

Tags: Opportunity, prison, Redemption, Supreme Court, youth (all tags)

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