Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Shameful Record

A New York Times Editorial yesterday layed out the record for the United States treatment of juvenile offenders as 'shameful.' The Editorial says: As many as 38 states sentence minors to life without the chance of parole, including Pennsylvania, the worst offender, where hundreds of inmates — estimates range from 360 to 433 — have no hope of ever being released because of crimes they committed between the ages of 13 and 18.

According to Human Rights Watch, 2,380 people in this country are serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18. That makes the United States an extreme global outlier. Sentencing juveniles to life without parole is at odds with international law; the vast majority of the world’s countries ban the practice.

Lazale Ashby, 23 of Hartford, Connecticut was recently sentenced to death in this small moderate northeastern state for a crime he committed at the age of 18 and 3 days. Four days before he would have been eligible for life in prison. A child's (the Supreme Court said we cannot kill teenagers anymore) brain development makes them less able to resist impulses among other very important factors in young adults. Do we not share some of this blame?

I knew Mr. Ashby when he was a young 14 years old, a client of mine in a therapeutic after school program, in 1998. A troubled young man to say the least, but what do we gain by committing murder? What do we gain by imprisoning all of these children? It is high time we have a policy that reflects what is happening in our society, in our urban communities and to our children.


tom said...

I don't want to come off callous about Lazale's life because I know he had the worst life imaginable. That being's a good thing that you didn't know him a couple years later than you did. When he was 16 years old he committed sexual assault on a 4th grade girl and threatened to kill her and her family if she told. When he was 2 months shy of his 18th birthday he raped another girl; this one in high school. The crime he committed when he was 18 years and 3 days was the most horrific of all. Elizabeth Garcia was 21 year old single mother of a 2 year old girl. Lazale beat her unmercifully, held her against her will (kidnapping), raped her, stabbed her 5 times in the hands while she tried to defend herself, 13-15 more times in her back and neck and then strangled her to death. During his trial he writes a not to a fellow inmate saying "how he did a good job on her". Fast forward 10 months later and he shoots Nahshon Cohen who was also 21 years old in the back of the head and would have killed Valentino Boland if the gun had gone off. Give him credit for trying though because all 4 bullets had a notch in them where he pulled the trigger, but they were all misfires. Had you known Lazale a couple years later maybe you wouldn't be around to write this article. Maybe if you were Elizabeth's mom or her 7 year old daughter living without a mom or Nahshon's mom living without her son or any of his other multitudes of collateral victims you might have a different point of view. Society didn't fail him. In closing..if you want to place the blame beyond Lazale himself then you need go no further than his own immediate family. His mom Carmen Ashby abandoned him for a crack pipe when he was 6 and his aunt Jackie Thompson took him in for the state assistance which she used for her own drug habit. By all accounts that money certainly wasn't used for his well being. The only thing society did was finally give well deserved justice to the families of the victims.

Kid Radical said...

What a disgusting and quite frankly "callous" description of his life. I won't try and convince you with facts because obviously vengeance is much more important to you. And for the record I do not seek to minimize any of the crimes (though some of the crimes you mentioned he was never charged with - also for the record) - Lazale belongs in jail, where he is for the rest of his life, that I agree.

My question to you is, would you exchange your life for his, i.e. his childhood for yours? Because what we do in this society is forget about those children living in abject poverty, untold violence perpetrated upon them by yes, their parents, foster parents and the streets. We as a society do nothing to stop such violence (in fact we try to blame it on those who are the victims believing the people that live in the urban ghetto are somehow different than us) and then when that violence who a young man has been subjected to his whole life becomes a perpetrator we seek the death penalty to kill them as you say for justice.

When we will we be blamed for looking the other way our whole lives? When will justice be served on our callous society?

Anonymous said...
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tom said...
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tom said...

I think that people (myself included) get very heated in their beliefs, but we shouldn't point fingers and tell other people what they did was wrong or tell them what they should have done. It turns into one of those "Walk a mile in my shoes" type of things. We made the decision we thought was right and I can say all of us feel very comfortable with it. When he attacked a guard 2 or 3 weeks after hitting death row then he pretty much told us himself that we were right. I sleep like a baby at night knowing we made the right decision. I hope and pray that he will ask God for forgiveness and receive His mercy.

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