America’s justice system is the equivalent of a three card monte street hustle. Only works for the guys orchestrating the con. The rest of us are the rubes who walk away with empty pockets, scratching our heads. I am particularly outraged with the way we treat those handful of broken children who finally, finally strike out in self-defense against the perpetrators of their pain – and end up as victims of that street hustle.First of all, these children are not criminals. Rather, they are a breed apart. Think about it. In a society saturated in violence, that glorifies hitting and killing and blowing human beings to bits in war, in videos, in 3-D glory, why wouldn’t a child, at the mercy of his own personal terrorists, react in kind? These children are conditioned to believe that only violence solves problems and yet, we expect them to act like Gandhi? Engage in sit-ins? Hunger strikes? Slap a petition up on change.org? Inform the parent who is molesting them that his behavior is unacceptable, that she must stop?These children are reacting normally to an abnormal situation. On a deeper level, they are engaged in a classic act of survival. We must treat their behavior thusly.In the bad old days when we were less enlightened, children were seldom tried in adult courts and when they were they did not receive life sentences. In Colorado, a story is told about a boy in the 1960’s who killed his parents and was tried as an adult. The warden, not believing that a child should be thrown in prison with stone-cold killers, protected the child by taking him into his own home. The child later had his sentence commuted and spends his life serving others. He got away with nothing, which is the fear of prosecutors and an unforgiving public. He has become redeemed, and yet some of us remain angry about that. As if it’s the former child, and not the system, that has conned us all.Abused children are generally gentle, frightened, largely passive creatures. Before killing their abusers, some describe themselves as being squeezed into a box with no way out. Prosecutors and the public like to say these children could have told, they could have reached out. Yet, when you investigate the backgrounds of most of these kids, they do tell teachers, family members, friends, social services. No one helps, or the help is ineffectual, or makes the problem worse. All fail these children and afterward, provide a myriad of excuses for doing nothing. In a society that demands accountability, accountability is actually reserved for others; never ourselves. America, its courts, its entire system, must change the way we treat these children. We must re-define the definition of crime and punishment. First of all, we must acknowledge that these acts will be pre-meditated – on some level a violated child will have been fantasizing murder, not to mention suicide, for years. Secondly, we must learn the basic facts about each particular parricide, and proceed cautiously. Thirdly, these children must never be funneled into the adult system. They must be kept in juvenile court. As soon as the child is taken into custody, a thorough investigation must be done by individuals knowledgeable about the dynamics of abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental stages, and on and on and on. Please do not do a knee-jerk default to Department of Human Services. Experience shows DHS case workers are woefully inadequate. We need a specially trained task force to evaluate and treat these children as the victims they are. The investigation can’t be done in a matter of days, after which the information is turned over to the prosecutor who will then decide to try the child in the adult court. You are excavating a family’s past. Proceed with extreme care, as you would an actual archeological dig. A child’s life hangs in the balance, not to mention a larger family’s and community’s well-being Once all the facts are laid bare and treatment decided upon, these children will need a safe place to heal. That is NOT prison. In the late 1980’s – early 1990’s, Colorado had the Closed Action Treatment Center. The CAT House, as it was called, successfully cared for violent youth, including these children, until budget cuts and changing public attitudes decreed prison and punishment were the way to go. Other states had similar treatment centers. Some still do. We have a blueprint. We know what works.Now, do we have the heart to do it?Please check out the links below. If you have further questions, please contact Mary Ellen Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org . 720-314-1402
Parricide is defined as the murderingof one's father, mother, or other near relative. Parricide is extremely rare, averaging fewer than 300 cases annually in the United States. (Contrast to adults who kill their children, which is epidemic by comparison.) I initially became involved in the tragedy of kids serving life after championing a Colorado 15-year-old, Jacob Ind, who killed his abusive father and stepmother.