Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More on Juvenile Justice for Violent Crimes

I believe juveniles should be tried in juvenile courts, and have written about this in the past, here and here. There are several regional and local cases of note on this front, and one bit of research to share.

First is the story of the Slender Man assault. In this case, two 12-year-old white girls from Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb, stabbed a third girl after luring her to the woods. The assailants were deluded, believing the attack would get them into the good graces of a horror story character called Slender Man. Yes, this is a real case. Clearly, these girls did a very bad thing and could have killed the other girl. But just as clearly, they are very young and should be tried as juveniles (and possibly as mentally incompetent to stand trial at all). Unfortunately, Wisconsin's tough-on-crime law, passed in the 1990s, says the state can try children as young as 10 as adults for violent crimes, and that's what's being fought over in this case. (Minnesota, in contrast, uses 16 as the age cutoff for trying juveniles as adults. Still too low, in my opinion, but a world of difference from the Wisconsin law.)

A somewhat similar situation arose last week, also in Wisconsin, but this time in New Richmond, which is about 40 minutes from St. Paul. This time, it's a 14-year-old white girl, Kali Bookey, who hated her brother's 15-year-old girlfriend. Bookey plotted an attack on the girlfriend over several weeks, until she finally rode her bike over at the crack of dawn, entered the house, and beat the girlfriend as she slept. Bookey then smashed some ceramic bowls over the other girl's head and slit her throat several times with one of the shards. The victim was found in time and is recovering. There are more horrible details, but the main point is that Bookey is being tried as an adult despite her age and the obviously immature thinking that motivated her actions.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, we had a 17-year-old white boy who plotted to kill his family and blow up his school, including gathering all of the weaponry needed. He was keeping it mostly in a storage locker and was caught as he was entering the locker. In this case, he never actually harmed anyone. He was tried as a juvenile and after a short sentence (or maybe it was some kind of mandated treatment), he was given the option of 10 years of probation with no record or keeping a felony on his record but being released from probation. He recently chose the latter, since he figures a felony won't keep him from getting a job as a pipefitter, his chosen career. Whether he is still a danger to society remains to be seen.

Which state is closer to right in its approach? A new meta analysis says Minnesota is. Researchers pooled 20 years of studies and found that "young people who are transferred to adult courts have higher recidivism rates."


Minnesota also has the case of a 43-year-old fully adult man who received 15 years probation for an abduction-rape. I have no idea how that sentence is possible given the severity of the crime, as described in the Pioneer Press story, and the trauma inflicted on the victim. (Remember, Koua Fong Lee was sentenced to eight years for a car accident he clearly did not intend to happen and tried to prevent.)

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