U.S and Somalia: Partners in Juvenile Justice

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that the well-being of a nation can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable.  If that is the case, then the United States can look to Somalia as an indicator of its national well-being.  That’s because the United States and Somalia are the only two nations in the world that have not ratified Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which bans participants from sentencing children to life in prison.

The Supreme Court will take this issue up today as it will hear arguments concerning the practice of sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole for offenses that do not involve killing.  The practice has been challenged as a violation of the consitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Life sentences with no chance for parole are harsh and admittedly unusual sentences for those children who were tried as adults and convicted of crimes less than killing.  In fact, only 109 offenders currently serve such sentences. 

The decision to review the practice is a direct result of earlier precedent that outlawed the practice of sentencing juveniles to death.  Those arguing against sentencing juvenlies to life without parole argue that outlawing this practice is a natural extension of that caselaw.  The sentence according to juvenile justice advocates is really the same as an execution sentence, wholly inappropriate and misguided, even when dealing with serious offenses committed by juveniles such as rape and burglary.

But Florida and 19 other states disagree.  They argue they need the sentencing flexibiltiy, and thus retaining the life-without-parole sentence in order to effectively manage its juvenile offenders.  Opponents of the sentences note that most states have rejected the practice for crimes that did not involve a killing.  The list of those lobbying against the practice include pyshcologists, corrections officials, former lawmakers, and even some victims. 

Given the disposition of the case the Supreme Court is not being asked to examine the underlying convictions of the youth–that is, the Justices will not determine ultimate guilt or innocence.  Rather, they will just examine the very narrow issue of whether or not the sentence itself can be reconciled with our consitutional guarantees.

The short answer to the question should be no.  The Supreme Court has already held it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to death for crimes involving killing and states should not be able to make an end run around that proclamation by simply throwing away the prison key.  Of these 109 offenders currently serving life without parole sentences, seven were convicted for crimes committed when they were 13.  To simply give up on a child, no matter how troubled he or she may be, is inexcusable for a country with as much access to wealth, opportunity, and promise as the United States.  Such a punishment goes well beyond any punitive measure and is simply a resignation and declaration that as a society we just don’t care about some kids.  If that is the case, and if that is the truth, then we deserve to have Somalia as our companion on the world’s stage.

photo courtesy of rjakobbson via Flickr.


alicia m.
alicia m7 years ago

very interesting, thank you Jessica!

Sara N.
Sara N8 years ago

i can understand sentencing a child (tried as an adult) to life without parole if they have been involved in murder and have a history of serious violence. but to sentence a child that has just performed burglary or like crimes i do not believe it is fair to sentence them to life imprisonment. even most adults won't get sentenced to life inprisonment without something violent or serious repeat offenders. i do not believe that children should be punished more than adults.... we should give them more opportunities for rehabiliatition.

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

part 4 on CRC re parentalrights.org...

why won't care2 give room for full thoughts beyond a twitter?

"Parents would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children."

reasonable spankings... i got a few spankings, a couple of which i needed to tell me such thngs as not to ride my wagon out into traffic... but i've seen the scarred backs and minds of persons who got too many of what might well have been called 'reasonable spankings.' the bible belt is notoriously bad for these beatings. chief sitting bull once remarked that 'maybe the reason whites so often grow up to act like wild dogs is because when they are children they are beaten like wild dogs.' i see parents violently bullying their kids frequently, spanking them humiliatingly in grocery stores or on sidewalks. if someone did that to the bitches and bastards in public or private they'd scream bloody murder and rightly have the culprit arrested, throw in jail. pick on somebody your own size bully parents.

similarly, i remember a couple beatings i got and other kids got from teachers and principals in school. makes me weep to recall. a couple of those times i really should've taken a baseball bat to the horrible old things; made damn sure they never bashed a child ever again.

"A murderer aged 17 years and 11 months and 29 days at the time of his crime could no longer be sentenced to life in prison."

this is a law the world, and america urgently needs without reservation.

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

part 3 CRC re parentalrights.org
"Children would acquire a legally enforceable right to leisure."

kids should have right to leisure. most adults sure do. must say that here on the upper east side of new york, these nutcase 'alpha parents' whose poor 'manchurian children' have been enrolled in harvard medical school since conception... are often seriously abused in subtle ways, like having no friends due to insane parental demands; no time to themselves whatsoever in which to play, pretend, find out who they are, etc. it kind of amounts to forced child labor among the affluent...

"Allowing parents to opt their children out of sex education has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.19"

when i was 12, knew kids who still thought when told of sex by other kids that 'that's dirty. my parents would never do that.' this is a very common form of child abuse and harms people thereafter with the whole biblical concept that 'sex is dirty.' while that should cease, would it then fall to jew-christian-moslem-hindu dictates as to what the child is taught in sex ed?

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

part 2 about CRC points from parentalrights.org...
"The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision."

beyond the rights of children which do indeed need to be established... this is a very tough area. examples... thousands of american children have been taken from parents who were determined unfit for such things as refusing to allow their child to be forced to take psychiatric drugs like ritalin/anti-depressants/antipsychotics and other zombie drugs of spychiatry. last year, a child and teen psych 'home' in massachusetts was found to have been giving massive, numerous shock treatments as 'punishment' even for pranks. psychiatry has always had these nazi leanings and is very anti-spiritual. it turned out that many of the workers said that they had seen this in other state's institutions as well. that is child torture, MK Ultra style as the APA helps do at gitmo and in obama's continued CIA rendition program worldwide...

another example of state social workers interventions... a woman in upstate new york told her social worker that she enjoyed breast-feeding her baby and immediately had her child taken away. it took her 3 years in court to get her child back and her civil claim was denied. those crimes deserved a shotgun.

how to protect children from both parents and the state is a BIG problem.

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

as care2 limits these comments to near-twitter tweets, sorry but i have to make my comments on CRC in parts... in general, the points are objected to by www.parentalrights.org

Part I
"Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only have the authority to give their children advice about religion." also: "Christian schools that refuse to teach "alternative worldviews" and teach that Christianity is the only true religion "fly in the face of article 29" of the treaty."

the right to be free from brainwashing seems a basic, never addressed human right, the right to ownership and control of one's mind and beliefs from birth to death. if one is brainwashed (as most of us have been), from childhood on; it is very unlikely that we ever fully regain ownership or control of our minds. to hell with jewish/christian/moslem/hindu brainwashing of defenseless children by parents, schools, churches, governments or any other dictators of thought and behaviour. like mark twain said, "the distinction between a tyrant over a household or over a nation is only in the magnitude of the dominion.' not a single valid reason for all children to have the freedom to make up their own minds about anything without overwhelming influence.

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

i took the advice of katiek and went to parentsrights website.here are their basic points...

* Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only have the authority to give their children advice about religion.13.
* The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.14.
* A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.15.
* According to existing interpretation, it would be illegal for a nation to spend more on national defense than it does on children’s welfare.16.
* Children would acquire a legally enforceable right to leisure.17.
* Christian schools that refuse to teach "alternative worldviews" and teach that Christianity is the only true religion "fly in the face of article 29" of the treaty.18.
* Allowing parents to opt their children out of sex education has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.19.
* Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.20.
* Parents would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children.11.
* A murderer aged 17 years and 11 months and 29 days at the time of his crime could no longer be

Taz D.
Taz D8 years ago

we have 1700 kids charged as adults when as young as 11 in prison right now who are up that river for the rest of their lives and hundreds of thousands of young 'in the system.' US has by far the largest prison population on earth at 2.4 million, with the astonishing number of 7 milion usually now 'in the system, (probation, parole, etc.) china, with 4x our population, has 1.9 million prisoners (though they do execute thousands a year) prison population in 1960 america was 184,000. that's now 15x more while population just doubled... this is largely drugwar and racist as apartheid, with 51% of priisoners black, 20% hispanic or native in a country where 70% are white and whites consume more drugs per capita, (but spend 7x more on lawyers, get to go to 'country club prisons.)

back in 2000 when gw bush was campaigning, this woman tried to get heard about a time she went to the bush ranch for a BBQ and saw bush doing what he thought a hilarious imitation of a black retarded guy being executed, as was happening that night. bush as governor did the 2nd most executions of any gov in that century, half were black and several were children.he also had retarded people, including at least one severely retarded black teen, executed. only somalia, uganda and afghanistan still allowed the execution of retarded people or children then. many of those executed under bush had virtually no legal aid. one 'public defendant' was sleeping when his 'client' was sentenced.

Christopher Fowler

The reason that children are so easily removed and placed in state homes is simple; MONEY.
DCF, HRS or whatever they are called in each state, makes federal money based on how many cases they have (SSA Title 4e).
Just like child support enfocement agencies, that have no lawful obligation to insure that the children are taken care of properly, these agencies operate without any oversight and without any legal obligation to be responsible for their actions.
This allows them to violate the rights of parents, violate other laws and destroy healthy families with near total impunity.
To fix the problem, we must destroy these agencies and rebuild them with checks and balances, replace the standards of the federal bonus programs with programs that require a fair, measurable and responsible standard of practice to get that funding.
Require Custodial parents to be equally responsible and subject to scrutiny as Non-custodial parents. Require child welfare agencies to properly investigate, using a neutral, set standard to determine if a child is abused/neglected.
Hold ALL agencies 100% accountable for their actions with higher penalties for violation of the rules and law than the common person.
They are supposed to be working for us and need to be constantly reminded of that fact.
Without reasonable and measurable fair standards, coupled with total accountability, these agencies will continue to deny parents their rights.
It doesn't take a village, it takes PARE

Katie K.
Katie K8 years ago

This article is far more narrow than the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ratifying this treaty would be devistating for families in the U.S. Washington State had (now repealed) laws that paralelled the UNCRC, and children were removed from good homes and placed into state care, one for being grounded with good cause. See www.parentalrights.org for the stories.

Children should not be facing life sentences, period. This is an issue that needs addressed, but ratifying the UNCRC is NOT the way to do this, at least not in the United States.

Reject the UNCRC, and also reject any bill in congress that would define parental rights - once they define our rights, they can tell us how to raise our children...something I will not bow to, and neither should any parent. See more information here:

There are countries that will benefit from the UNCRC, however the U.S. is not one of them. Keep the government out of our child rearing. Reject the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the U.S. There are other ways to ensure that children are not subjected to life sentences.