Abe Van Dyke
A pair of 13-year-old girls will be prosecuted as adults in the attempted killing of a classmate after a sleepover last year, a judge ruled Monday after finding that moving their case to juvenile court would “unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren announced Monday that defense lawyers had failed to convince him that the cases should be moved to juvenile court, where the girls would face only three years of incarceration and extensive supervision until age 18.
Geyser, who Weier and Leutner say actually did the stabbing when Weier refused at the last minute, was diagnosed during competency evaluations as suffering from early onset schizophrenia. Experts said she continues to converse with fictional characters, concedes that Slender Man might order her to kill again and believes she can suppress negative emotions through Vulcan mind control.
During his oral ruling, Bohren acknowledged all that, but kept coming back to the disturbing, premeditated nature of the crime, an offense he described as, “frankly, vicious.”
The United States has almost six times as many youth in secure confinement in comparison to the combined numbers of Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland and the United Kingdom despite having only a third greater population. Not only that, but the United States also has the lowest age of criminal responsibility of all comparison nations by holding children as young as six years of age as criminally responsible. This is appalling, especially considering that the juvenile justice court founded in America in 1899 served as a model for other nations. In other words, since the Progressive Era, the United States has regressed in its treatment of juvenile offenders.
What could be the reason for such retrogression with regard to children and criminal culpability when all other aspects of American society appear to revere and protect the state of childhood? There is no scientific evidence that children in America have become more violent in any way that would warrant the complete disregard of the unique characteristics of childhood in favor of the application of adult punishment. I would even go so far as to argue that it’s impossible for such evidence to exist because there is no medical, psychological or sociological possibility that a child as defined by science can be anything other than a child.
My opinion as to the reason for the treatment of juvenile offenders as adults is that it has nothing to do with science or logic and everything to do with money and fear. It has become common knowledge that the United States has the largest prison population on the planet with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. It is no coincidence that the prison industrial complex has exploded in direct correlation with the increase in the number of prisons managed by private corporations and the related growth of cottage industries dependent upon these for-profit institutions. Simply put, there is money to be made in locking people up. As long as money continues to have a stranglehold on our politicians and government policies it won’t be easy to reverse this trend, although not impossible as we have seen with recent Supreme Court rulings regarding juvenile offenders.
The influence of fear in the treatment of juvenile offenders is a little more difficult to deal with because it involves the concept of otherness in the treatment of fellow human beings. When groups of people are determined to be so foreign or so different that mainstream society cannot relate to them, there is tacit acceptance that they can be treated as less than human. It allows for the rationalization of their suffering as not so bad because, after all, they’re different. Because of their otherness, if something terrible happens to them it’s probably deserved. To dehumanize someone makes it easier to kill them, as happened in the case of Trayvon Martin when he was physically killed by George Zimmerman and then legally killed by the jury. Statistics show that the group of children most likely to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system are African American boys. This is because they are not viewed as children no matter what age they are. The fact that they are African American automatically assigns negative attributes to them, which denote that they should be feared and dealt with as threats in absolute disregard of any considerations they should receive because they are children. In essence, their blackness makes it impossible for them to be children.
I’m deeply troubled by the attitudes of people who think that the seriousness of a crime is the deciding factor as to whether a child is an adult or not, which is the exact reasoning given by the judge in the case of these 13-year-old girls. However, this feeling does not outweigh my hope and belief that reason will ultimately prevail and result in a proliferation of services available nationwide to address the needs of troubled children who find themselves at odds with the law.