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Second Chance for Juveniles
"Times change politics, politics change laws, laws change the justice system, and the failure of the justice system changes times." -- Katja Pumm
Just because something has always been done a certain way, and is socially acceptable by the majority of society and state laws, does not make it morally or legally right.
For example, if we were to look into the rear-view mirror of our nations brief 240 year history, these are some of the atrocious actions that were legally being committed by some of our ancestors that would be crimes of the highest order today: Slavery. Segregation. Public executions. Not allowing non-whites to vote. Not allowing women to vote. Allowing kids to work in factories, railroads, and manual labor jobs. Dumping toxic waste into the watter supply.
The above major civil and human rights violations, and numerous violations against kids, the elderly, people with disabilities, and teh environment, that were corrected by legislative laws and court decisions, demonstrate, as higher intelligent beings living in a modern, civilized society, how we are evolving towards perfecting equality, fairness, and humane treatment towards all people.
In a 6-3 majority ruling in January of this year, 2016, and for the fourth time in this relatively new Century, the Supreme Court took another jusicial step towards giving juveniles a second chance. Before I give my two-cents on the subject, let's recap the other Supreme Court rulings in the 21st century.
2005 -- Barred the Death Penalty for capital crimes committed by juveniles at the time of their crime (anyone under 18).The retroactive ruling forces states to commute all Deal Penalty sentences given to juveniles into Life Sentences.
2010 -- prohibited states from giving juveniles Life Sentences for crimes that weren't a homicide.
2012 -- blocked states from giving juveniles mandatory Life Sentences, including for murder
2016 -- extended a chance for freedom to some 1,500 now grown adults, who were given Life Without the chance for Parole sentences for murder as juveniles -- some who were as young as 13 at the time of their crimes -- in several states that did not treat the 2012 ruling retroactively.
The latest Supreme Court ruling in a string of second chance court decisions in favor of juvenile offenders give people like Henry Montgomery (17), now 69; Trina Garnett (14), now 54; Damien Jenkins (17), now 41; James Porter (16), now 50; and several hundreds of other juvenile offenders who have been locked up multiple decades, instant parole eligibility and at least a chance at being released.
I understand that giving a teenager a second chance, who say, wrecks their parents' car, and giving a teenager a second chance who commits cold-blooded murder, are two totally different moral circumstances that can't be weighed on the same scales of justice. A human life that was taken can't -- and shouldn't -- be compared to a replaceable, demolished car. In my comparative example, both teenagers are immature, underage adolescents who exercised poor judgment (one to a greater extreme), and yes, their egregious actions have deserving consequences. I get that. I really do. Even a kid should be punished for murder, but condemning a kid for the rest of their natural lives for a crime that was commits when their thinking proceess wasn't fully developed is beyond excessive punishment and should be a crime itself.
After 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years of being in prison, their comes a defining moment in time when juvenile offenders deserve a second chance at life as a free adult, which is something they have never experiences because they were kids/teens when they were arrested/incarcerated. I know the deceased victim can't be given the same second chance in this life. Unfortunately, that isn't possible. It is possible for juvenile offenders, who committed murder, to be given a second chance, so why not practise that we preach -- forgiveness -- and after a more that reasonable sentence has been served, allow said juvenile offenders to redeem themselves as free adults. At least the rehabilitated, mature adult (juvenile offender) can contribute some good to society, but destroying two lives in this lifetime is not justice and not a solution to deterring murder crimes by juveniles.
Shawn Ali Bahrami (17), now 39. Yes, I'm a juvenile offender. Because I've been locked up for the past 21 years, since I was 17, juvenile justice adn reform is a sensitive subject for me. I can't wrap my mind around how everyday, church-going people can be so cruel, hateful, and vengeful towards kids and teens who commit aggravated adult crimes.
The 84th Texas Legislature (2015) struck down a bill last year that would have treated all 17 year olds as juveniles instead of as adults. The Federal government, and most states, use 18 as the standard age for the start of adulthood. Texas, however, wants to get a year head-start on "plucking teenagers out of society just as they approach adulthood and surrounding them with hardened criminals."(TIFA Newsletter, Vol. 20 No. 3, July 2015, tifa.org)
In compassionate-conservative Texas, all 17-year-olds, no matter the crime, are tried, convicted, and sentenced as adults. Think of how much prison budget money would be saved, how much incarceration numbers will be lowered, and how many teenagers would be saved from an adult criminal record, through using treatment and rehabilitative programs, if the adult age in Texas were increased to one year to the 18-year old standard.
Sometimes I can't believe, as a 39-year old man today, I've been living in a prison cell since I was 17. Though I have learned, gained, and accomplished a lot during my two-decade prison journey, I'm stunned by how fast the sands of time and my life have elapsed through my mortal hourglass. In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela (Rest in Peace) said, "In prison, a day seems like a year, and a year seems like a day." That's so true.
I have seen the faces of several men return to prison for the second, third, and even fourth time while I'm still on my first and only time. Some of their names I know, most of them don't, but I have a photographic memory when it comes to faces. While I'm still here, I see them keep reutrning. Damn, all I want is one chance. Not to save just myself and to succeed as an adult, but to be the solution by using my knowledge, gifts, and talents I have acquired in prison to save as many misguided, troubled juveniles as I can from following down my institutional path.
Dead II Society
I'm dead to society, I'm alive to myself
Dead to the world, alive to my girl
they can't take my eternal wealth
and they be asking me, "bro, how do you do it?"
and I tell them, bro, it's not me, but He that lives inside of me
Get away from me . . . I'm dead to society
Get away from me . . . one-of-a-kind, original, successful G
Get away from me . . . can't you see, I'm dead to society
I never saw it coming
they snatched and they kidnapped
a blindfolded injustice attack
jacked me of my youth and innocence
by two crooked detectives strapped
used the, "we only want to ask you a few questions" trap
at 17, Texas plucked me off the streets
blasted my ass off the freeworld map
on top of that
a $750,000 bond-ransom was asked
traveled the hardknock life track
straight-down the cell-life path
buried alive in bricks and bars
R.I.C., resting in chaos
on a pastic mat, where souls are stacked
trapped, in a concrete purgatory
slash, also a judicial laboratory
housing human rats, mostly minorities
the convenient excuse was crack
but we know it's bigger than that
social genocide on brown and black
I'm the system's invention
a 40 year sentence experimentation
man meets wrongful conviction
so close to death
at night, on the prison tiers
I can hear the Grim Reaper whisper
tempting me to go down deeper
must have mistook me for a follower but I'm a strong-minded leader
see my finger, it's pointing up
I'm a Believer
what you meant for bad
God meant for good
I became a new creature
my enemies fled and fell in 7 different ways but they'll never get away
the law of Karma is a bitch
I'm on a Man-on-Fire mission
I've been gone for 20 years too long
I'm an experiment gone wrong
you gave me superpowers
Shawn Ali "S" on my chest
my struggles made me immortally strong
I was mute,lost,and broke
but my painfuljourney
gave me song after song
gave me definite purpose
it's inevitable, you can't stop it, it's on
freedom, exoneration, success, money long
I'm dead to society
I'm dead to society
I'm dead to society
but I'm alive to YOU
Thank you for believeing in me
I was wrongfully convicted at the age of 17 and I've spent the past 20+ years of my life in prison.
The FREEShawnAli.com Blog!
Sharing My Perspective About Life, Social Injustices and Prison
by Shawn Ali Bahrami.