Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maybe there is something to this rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents

Here is a story from ESPN about one of the newest additions to the Tennessee Volunteers football program. The signing of Daniel Hood to a scholarship has stirred up controversy among Vol fans. Many fans have serious reservations about allowing the young man into the program because when Hood was 13, he was convicted in juvenile court of kidnapping and rape. He was placed in a youth development center. While in state custody, he enrolled in a Catholic high school. He helped the school win a state championship and was named the state's Mr. Football for his class. And he was an honor student with a 3.8 GPA.

Lane Kiffin, Tennessee head coach, and his staff spent months considering Hood. They spoke to people throughout the high school and the community. Kiffin says everyone spoke highly of Hood. The victim herself, Hood's cousin, wrote a letter of support.

It appears that Daniel Hood is a success story for the juvenile justice system. A young boy took part in a terrible crime, but after intervention and counseling and support, he has been able to transform himself into a decent young man, with bright prospects for the future. And yet, many apparently feel that he shouldn't have that chance. Because he did a bad, bad thing when he was 13. Based on some of the comments I have read online, some people truly seem to feel that doing a bad, bad thing at 13 really does mean he should never get another chance in life, even if he lives to be 90.

Why are people upset at the idea that someone who once took part in a crime could be rehabilitated and live a good life? The reality is that no matter how vindictive people want to be, we can't lock up someone for life for a crime like this that occurred when the kid was 13. We just can't. Just like we can't lock up for life the vast majority of people who are sentenced to prison. It would cripple our nation financially. (Our over-reliance on prison sentences are already contributing to massive budget problems in most states.) So the reality is that most of the people who commit crimes will once again live on the outside.

Knowing that most of them will get out, isn't it in our best interests for them to be successful on the outside? I want the Daniel Hoods of the country to do well after their times in detention. I want them to graduate high school and move on to college. I want them to find things like sports that can give them self-confidence, a sense of pride, and a sense of responsibility to others by being part of a team. I want them to reintegrate back into society because it is what is best for them and what is best for society as a whole.

We should hope that every single 13 year-old adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent can earn a college scholarship just 6 short years later. And we should hope that every college would have the courage and the wisdom that the University of Tennessee has shown by granting him that scholarship.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think you're absolutely right. Rehabilitation is not as infrequent as people think. My guess as to why this is so difficult for some people is that it disrupts their worldview in which things are either black or white. The world is no that simple and to write off people, especially young people after their first crime is a mistake.

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