Life inside Indiana’s Pendleton Juvenile Detention Center is no life for a twelve-year-old child. Yet, according to juvenile justice advocate, Dan Dailey that’s exactly where Paul Henry Gingerich has ended up.
Tried as an adult, Gingerich was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison. Citing Gingerich’s small frame, the judge in the case recommended that Gingerich begin serving his sentence in a juvenile facility. But according to Dailey, Pendleton houses juveniles whose ages range all the way up to 22 and has one of the worst records of child sexual abuse in the country.
The judge in the case originally recommended that Gingerich be tried along with a 15-year-old as an adult because a 6 year sentence in a juvenile facility would not provide adequate time to rehabilitate Gingerich. But the data on rehabilitation shows that, contrary to the judge’s reasoning, a 25 year sentence will do much more harm than good.
Kim Dvorchak, a Colorado attorney specializing in juvenile defense says that, “every study done on children in adult court has shown that prosecuting children in adult court actually increases recidivism. It teaches them how to become criminals. Charging children as if they were adults is fundamentally…counterproductive to community safety.”
A recent Supreme Court case overturning life sentences for non-homicidal juveniles agreed, finding that “developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds.”
Children are simply different from adults. Trying kids like Gingerich as adults isn’t just wrong, its dangerous. When Gingerich gets out in 25 years the likelihood is that he will be a career criminal.
Every state budget in the nation is strapped. The fact is that we can no longer afford to imprison children who will simply return after less than 3 years (on average) to the institutions in which they grew up. It is high time that we stopped getting “tough on crime” and started getting “smart on crime.”
Juvenile Justice Reform is a good place to start.