Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can you tell the difference between the criminal and the guy who is profoundly mentally disabled?

Apparently the criminal justice system can't.

Teen with 47 IQ gets 100 years in sex abuse case

A teenager who has profound mental disabilities was sentenced to 100 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges in a sex abuse case involving his 6-year-old neighbor.Link

This is a travesty. And a tragedy. This 18 year-old boy was caught fondling a 6 year-old boy. That is the only detail the article provides on the specific facts of the "crime". The young man plead guilty to 5 counts and a jury decided his sentence. It was the judge's choice to stack all the sentences to add up to the 100 year prison term. At least the judge had the decency to say that neither he nor the jury liked the outcome, but they didn't know what else to do.

That's a pretty sad statement. We know that locking this poor guy up in prison for the rest of his life isn't really fair, but gee, we don't know what else to do. We don't know how to deal with this guy and we're just too lazy to figure it out. After all, we're not the ones who will have to live with all the killers and rapists for the next 60 or 70 years.

This boy has no business in prison. He probably shouldn't even be convicted of a crime. I have a hard time imagining that he had any criminal intent or any idea what he was really doing. He is a child in a man's body, which is how he came to be in his current predicament. To him, I would wager he doesn't see any difference between himself and that 6 year-old kid. But as an 18 year-old, he's also got raging hormones and he probably doesn't have any idea what to do with them. It would appear that the able-minded adults responsible for him also don't have a clue.

I understand that providing an adequate arrangement for this young man might be difficult. He probably requires a lot of supervision and a lot of attention. Maybe he doesn't have parents who can, or care to, dedicate the kind of time he needs. But shouldn't someone somewhere at least try? There has to be some kind of group home or facility that can meet his needs far better than an adult prison can. Warehousing him in a prison for the rest of his life is unacceptable. The fact that we're unwilling to come up with a better solution is something we should all be ashamed of. It's lazy. Hell, it's immoral. We shouldn't treat an incompetent, developmentally disabled teen as a criminal.


Meryl said...

Not to mention the injustice of the abuse this man (boy?) will suffer in prison.

Unknown said...

It makes me sad in my heart to read a story like this. I'm tempted to post it on my blog just to see the typical responses from my commenters. I might not have time to do it, but I thank you for continually crying out in the name of what's fair and right. Sometimes it seems like screaming into the Grand Canyon, but other times the message seems to be heard.

DBB said...

It is like we treat certain people as throw-away. It is truly sad.

S said...

You're completely right, Meryl, that prison will not be kind to him.

It infuriates me that the prosecutor and the judge (maybe even the defense attorney if s/he didn't put up much of a fight) are so willing to throw this kid away.

I still can't get over the fact that someone with an IQ under 50 was allowed to enter a guilty plea. How did anyone decide he was competent to waive his constitutional rights??

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