MSNBC aired a documentary last night called “Young Kids, Hard Times” about children in an adult prison in Iowa. Children, because they had committed big boys’ offenses, were tried as adults and sentenced to prison for as long as 25 or 30 years. One boy was just twelve years old when he was incarcerated.
It has long been fashionable to roll our eyes at the very notion of rehabilitation of offenders. But have we grown so jaded and crusty that we have written off children also? Have we any shame?
Children can no doubt do terrible things. But they are not fully developed physically, mentally, or morally. Some have emotional problems. Others are reared in poor and broken down households in which crime is not as much a choice they make as a reality in which they are enveloped.
So punish children. Teach them write from wrong. But don’t punish them as adults until we’ve taught them as children.