Friday, May 21, 2010

The more humane side of justice

There has been a lot of hue and cry on a new judgment passed by the US department of Justice. The decision involves the scrapping of a punishment - life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for juveniles in crimes that do not involve the taking of a life. On the face of it, it looks cruel to imprison a child for life without the possibility of parole. Think about it. Kids at ages below 18 are considered too immature to buy alcohol, too immature to vote for a government. So, how can one decide that they will never reform themselves ever? How can someone decide that the crimes that they have committed should have a punishment that makes them bitter for life? Everyone has a right to reform themselves and everyone has the right to a second chance, right?

Usually some juveniles, fall into the wrong ways from a very young age. Not their fault, perhaps, since they may have grown up on the streets, or may have been raised by addicts, other offenders, and may have had to participate in crimes to save their own lives or protect themselves from abuse. At such a time, they perhaps are so brazen towards rights and wrongs that they can't quite distinguish them. Or rather they can't realize that what they're doing is wrong. That is their immaturity. Take the case of children who have been accomplices in an armed robbery. The reason why they participated can be anything - fear, joblessness, lack of education, or just some way to earn some money. They get caught and they are tried. Suppose they are repeat offenders in such misdemeanors, because of which, when found guilty, they're put into a juvenile delinquent's prison. The idea is that they undergo some sort of reformation while in prison. But what if they come in contact with worse criminals? Maybe kids who've committed murder? At those impressionable ages, the wrong impression gets formed first. And society is perhaps better off not letting such newly formed criminals out.

But that does not mean that their chance at clemency should be withdrawn. The kids can be checked regularly, their psychological growth can be measured. But more importantly, while such a scrapping of a punishment brings forth the more humane side of the justice system, one must think of reforming prisons as well. They should be a correctional facility in the real sense of the word and not a dirty marsh that breeds further crime.

No comments: