Only in America
May 5, 2015 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Q: What do the US, Somalia, and South Sudan have in common? A: It's totally cool to put kids in jail forever.
At 38, Adolfo Davis is re-sentenced to life imprisonment as an accomplice to a gang murder when he was 14.
“The defendant’s acts showed an aggression and callous disregard for human life far beyond his tender age of 14.”

"Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. In Somalia and South Sudan, there are no known cases of people serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a minor. In the U.S., there were around 2,500 as of 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch tally."
posted by TheNegativeInfluence (40 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, he's black for life, seems like it's the American way to make sure he's jailed for life.

.
posted by dazed_one at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


So it sounds like they're technically squeaking around the rule, in their minds at least, by "re sentencing" the person when they're an adult.

We call that shady as fuck 'round here.
posted by emptythought at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


What I want to hear from the government is something like this: "This young man has demonstrated that he is wise beyond his years - he is smarter than most college freshmen... So were going to grant him the right to vote".

I mean, why do we only treat children as adults when it comes to punishment?

Yeah, sickening. There is a reason the US is not respected around the world. This is one of them.

The death penalty and percentage of incarcerated citizens are other reasons.

and that's before even talking about our foreign policy
posted by el io at 4:03 PM on May 5, 2015 [25 favorites]


It seems like it was up to the state courts to decide how a 2012 US SC decision would retroactively apply.

But it still says something when you decide to uphold a cruel and unusual punishment as necessary.
posted by halifix at 4:04 PM on May 5, 2015


“This sentence is necessary to deter others. It is necessary to protect the public from harm,” Petrone said.

Because if there's one thing 14 year olds think of before being a complete fuck up its how Adolfo Davis was sentenced to life without parole.
posted by Talez at 4:17 PM on May 5, 2015 [28 favorites]


Claiming that we must punish someone heavily to deter others is a pretty BS argument even in the best of times, and when referring to crimes committed by minors it is absurd. Not even sure why we bother having a separate system for minors if we're just going to do that.

Of course, if we are really serious about using punishment as a deterrent, then we should probably do something about not punishing people who didn't commit a crime.
posted by ckape at 4:27 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States.

Looks like it's just the USA and Somalia now: South Sudan Ratifies Convention on the Rights of the Child
posted by 23skidoo at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


In Vindictiveness We Trust
posted by Thorzdad at 5:04 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Without the A), I was assuming lots of things, like lack of paid maternity leave.

Why is it that as a country we seem so dead set against even remotely matching what every other first world, developed, rich nation does?

Are we so dead set on being "exceptional"?
posted by qcubed at 6:16 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Political corruption.
posted by Mblue at 6:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The defendant’s acts showed an aggression and callous disregard for human life far beyond his tender age of 14.

What does this even mean?

If our prison system actually made meaningful efforts to rehabilitate our prisoners, life sentences wouldn't be necessary as a deterrent.
posted by benbenson at 7:11 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know about this particular case, but in my opinion the US is right to allow the possibility of life without parole for a minor. There have been many cases where such punishments are merited by the facts of the crime. And there is no practical reason for the US to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child either.
posted by knoyers at 7:17 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


There have been many cases where such punishments are merited by the facts of the crime.

Citation needed.

And there is no practical reason for the US to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child either.

I would think that fact that every country in the world being a signatory save the US and Somalia belies this statement. Given its nearly universal acceptance, I find myself thinking "What possible reason is there not to sign the convention?" Not "Why on earth would we sign onto that?"
posted by axiom at 7:26 PM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


It is pretty obvious that there have been many cases of vicious killers under the age of 18 in the US. From here [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Murder_committed_by_minors], randomly, a few good examples are: Lee Malvo, Kip Kinkel, Alec Kreider, Sarah Johnson. A dangerous cold blooded murderer, especially a multiple killer, should not be given a chance to threaten society again because they happened to be under 18, nor should the value of their victims' destroyed lives be discounted by freeing them.

That other countries signed the UN Convention is not a reason for the US to do so, at all. Our government's own laws should not be used as a foreign policy tool or be subject to agendas that the UN or other countries may have. We have our own laws regarding the protection of children as well as our legislative and judicial process to respond to this subject as it evolves, and signing this treaty is not necessary for American children in any way. We probably haven't signed it because there is justifiable concern that this treaty implicitly or potentially limits the rights of parents (regarding corporal punishment, for instance) in a way that contradicts cultural, religious and personal freedom, as well as privacy, in the US. I'm not sure what it says about punishing killers who are minors, but a UN treaty shouldn't dictate what murderers the US must free into our society either.

Most of the numerous countries that signed this treaty probably did so as lip service anyway. What does it matter?

The Somalis can be proud to be in America's company.
posted by knoyers at 7:56 PM on May 5, 2015


We must protect our freedom from the UN by taking away freedom from children forever. Got it.
posted by bradbane at 8:05 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


We probably haven't signed it because there is justifiable concern that this treaty implicitly or potentially limits the rights of parents (regarding corporal punishment, for instance) in a way that contradicts cultural, religious and personal freedom, as well as privacy, in the US.

No, we likely haven't signed it for the same reason the US didn't and doesn't get on board with a lot of international treaties: hubris, and the justified fear that we could get called out and have to answer for the numerous human rights abuses we love to scold other, less powerful nations for executing.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:08 PM on May 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I want to give knoyers a 10/10 for trolling, but the curtailing of corporal punishment would be contained in Article 19 of the Convention.

As to the rest, I trust you believe that other countries should similarly be free from agendas that the US carries, as well as agendas carried by the international community at large. After all, I can disagree with your opinion but still respect your right to it so long as it is consistently upheld.

So Iran can make nukes now?

Also, on preview, what Aya Hirano said.
posted by parliboy at 8:10 PM on May 5, 2015


“My destiny was written when I was born into a chaotic family,” Davis told America Tonight in 2013 when we visited him in Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison in Crest Hill, Illinois. “So being born into that, as many other kids get born into it every day, it's like life is already written for us.”

Davis had his first brush with the law at the age of 9, when he says he was so hungry he attempted to snatch a bag of food from a little girl. His file also shows that a young Davis would bang his head against the wall until it bled, burn himself with cigarettes and wet the bed, Chicago Public Radio reported. He also suffered nightmares, severe insomnia and hallucinations. According to court documents, the juvenile court acknowledged that Davis had fallen through the cracks of the child welfare system.
My heart breaks...
posted by tickingclock at 8:13 PM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Lee Boyd Malvo does make a good example, in that he was a homeless, abused teenager and an FBI agent who questioned him described him in 2014 as “under the spell” of the adult who planned his crimes:
“When we interviewed him, our belief was that he was under the spell of Muhammad and that would wear off as time went on,” Garrett said Saturday. Interrogators “knew that he was covering for Muhammad. He wouldn’t put the gun in Muhammad’s hands in 2002. The spell was starting to wear off at trial, and now that he’s in jail for his entire life he’s probably being more realistic about what Muhammad did and didn’t do. He’s older, and he understands now how impressionable he was.” (source)

I find it difficult to imagine the point of locking up forever--with no chance of rehabilitation--a teenager whom everyone seems to have agreed, at the time, was having his decisions made for him by an adult cult leader. Or trying to execute them both, which was federal prosecutors’ first choice.
posted by peppercorn at 8:19 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Somalis can be proud to be in America's company.

Well played sir. You forgot to close the sarcasm tag, however.
posted by dazed_one at 8:47 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


We must protect our freedom from the UN by taking away freedom from children forever. Got it.
posted by bradbane at 8:05 PM on May 5


We shouldn't consider the UN when it comes to deciding how to punish murderers. A cold blooded killer isn't an innocent children who is being unjustly deprived of freedom. The people who were unjustly deprived are the victims and their families and those who might become that killer's victims.

So Iran can make nukes now?

Preventing Iran from having nukes is not based on fairness, but for the practical reason that Iran sponsors so much terrorism against civilians abroad through its proxies.

The US doesn't need to sign one spurious treaty because it wants some unrelated treaty to be enforced elsewhere.

The large number of Malvo's victims (and he and Muhammad intended to kill many more than they did) makes him potentially dangerous enough, and responsible for so much death and devastation, that he should never be released, not if he lives to be 110, regardless of the circumstances of his early childhood, his claims about his relationship with Muhammad and any other supposed mitigating circumstances. He thought, acted and made his own decision every time he pulled the trigger on an innocent stranger and his punishment should be based on that. He was not insane, nor was he too young to understand his actions. He is responsible for what he did. Life without parole is the least he deserves.
posted by knoyers at 8:48 PM on May 5, 2015


Yes, let's review some of these awful, spurious, totalitarian measures laid out in the Convention:

"States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child."

"States Parties shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad."

"The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice."

"States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health."


I'm pretty sure you've never read the Convention and just have some knee-jerk reaction to the UN, because I can't see any workable reason why any red-blooded, freedom-loving American would so strenuously object to stuff like this.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:01 PM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't object to the those clauses at all. But I don't see the necessity or the point of the US signing it for them. We already have enough law in place for these issues. We don't separate children and parents without due process, child trafficking is already illegal, we have the first amendment, and lack of access to mass media really isn't the problem of American children. Actually the last clause is somewhat objectionable because parents should have the right to limit, or attempt to limit, the sources of media that their child is exposed to, and in the US the government, let alone an extranational governing body, isn't supposed to define spiritual and moral wellness within the family.
posted by knoyers at 9:13 PM on May 5, 2015


I don't object to the those clauses at all. But I don't see the necessity or the point of the US signing it for them.

As was already pointed out, the question is more "why wouldn't we?", the answer to which is "because we consistently violate a few key clauses here", especially the imprisonment of children. And we don't want to be held accountable for that. It's the same reason why the US refused to abide the International Criminal Court, with John Bolton pretty much saying as much to the UN in 2002. We are in the business of punishing other countries for perceived human rights abuses; not being held accountable for them ourselves.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


If it's about child imprisonment, we are also absolutely right not to rule out sentencing a minor (at the time of the crime) to life without parole because that can be the most just, necessary and warranted outcome, as in many cases that have occurred.

Like any nation state, the US is and must be responsible for protecting its own interests and its own people above and before the interests of all other nations. The playing field between all the nations in the world is not level and every nation or lesser institution is hypocritical in at least one and probably many ways. Why should the US sign a pointless treaty that is not relevant to our laws or needs just to join [along with so many other countries that are certainly not abiding by it either]?
posted by knoyers at 9:36 PM on May 5, 2015


Shit, I dunno, because throwing children in prison is fucking barbaric and demonstrably does nothing to reduce crime, while international treaties help bring international fugitives to justice? But if you don't agree on that point then I guess there's nothing to discuss anyways.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:40 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just think that cold blooded murder is worth life in prison. It's neither impossible nor unprecedented for someone under the age of 18 to commit a crime so severe that it warrants life in prison, in lieu of the death penalty. On the other hand, allowing an extreme, cold blooded murderer to go back to society and freedom as if nothing happened is much more barbaric, as a negation of the value of destroyed and stolen innocent human life.
posted by knoyers at 9:47 PM on May 5, 2015


knoyers: From the Article, it says: "Convicted as an accomplice to a gang related murder. It was never proven that he fired his gun."

So we're not even talking about a murderer in the Adolfo Davis case. We're talking about an abused 14 year old indoctrinated by a gang who was present at the scene when other members of the Gangster Disciples carried out a hit. Accomplice charges can include extremely minor actions of aid or encouragement.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:51 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I disagree. No crime, including murder and rape, warrants life in prison. Murderers should be allowed to go back to society and freedom if they've made progress towards becoming good citizens.
posted by yaymukund at 11:06 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Knoyers, based on the information about the crime presented in the article, Adolfo Davis hardly is a cold blooded murderer. What's more, it is not exactly like he'd be going back to society 'like nothing happened' - he's spent 25 years in prison, over half his life. That should be enough time for rehabilitation, no? Or is this about revenge rather than rehabilitation? In which case wouldn't it have been more fitting to give that 14 year old kid the death penalty?
posted by dazed_one at 12:01 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


What differentiates an "extreme. cold blooded murderer" from a murderer who only gets a few years in prison? Attaching emotionally charged words to an argument doesn't actually make it a better argument. There's a pretty clear consensus, given the information we have about the crime, that Adolfo Davis has received a harsher punishment than was warranted.

The larger issue is that the US doesn't go along with the majority rule of the UN. I don't know what all this 'nation state' nonsense is because the argument you made is the exact opposite point of being a part of the UN. Even that hyperbolic thing about allowing Iran to make nukes still has a relevant point in that going against the global tide, especially in this case when so much of the world supports this human rights initiative, kind of makes you wonder... are we the baddies?
posted by TheNegativeInfluence at 12:47 AM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


"The defendant’s acts showed an aggression and callous disregard for human life far beyond his tender age of 14.”

I know what he means. I was nearly 26 before I developed that much aggression and callous disregard for human life, and the only reason I wasn't sentenced is I worked for Blackwater at the time. What's this little punk's excuse? Also, if you're gonna say the "tender age of 14", you should probably keep your hands visible and outside your robe when you say it, your honor.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:59 AM on May 6, 2015


(Hmm, should have read the article more closely, that particular tasteless joke doesn't work all that well given the details of the court.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:05 AM on May 6, 2015


Given its nearly universal acceptance, I find myself thinking "What possible reason is there not to sign the convention?" Not "Why on earth would we sign onto that?"

Because American exceptionalism.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:24 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Judge Angela Petrone is awful. I am familiar with her and man, am I not surprised. But I am sad.
posted by agregoli at 6:12 AM on May 6, 2015


Libby Anne at "Love, Joy, Feminism" has been posting and discussing sections of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as commenting on the right-wing politics responsible for the U.S. failure to sign it (in the context of a perceived threat to "parents' rights," homeschooling, and religious communities' child-rearing practices, as well as a general opposition to the UN.)

She notes that "You may have heard that the only countries in the entire world who have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are the U.S., Somalia, and South Sudan. While this was once true, Somalia ratified the treaty in January of this year, and South Sudan’s government has begun the ratification process. In other words, out of all of the countries in the world, the U.S. stands alone in refusing to ratify the CRC."

The same "parents rights" lobby has also argued against the U.S. ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). "Last week [Homeschool Legal Defense Fund director Michael Farris] testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arguing that the Senate should not ratify the treaty because doing so would limit parents’ rights to make decisions for their children and ultimately have a negative effect on homeschooling." That treaty was never ratified by the US.

Also, looking at these links, I learned that apparently even when the US does sign UN treaties, it sometimes does so with "reservations", formally refusing to comply with certain parts.
By its reservations, the United States apparently seeks to assure that its adherence to a convention will not change, or require change, in U.S. laws, policies or practices, even where they fall below international standards. For example, in ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United States refused to accept a provision prohibiting capital punishment for crimes committed by persons under eighteen years of age. In ratifying the Torture Convention, the United States, in effect, reserved the right to inflict inhuman or degrading treatment (when it is not punishment for crime), and criminal punishment when it is inhuman and degrading (but not “cruel and unusual”).
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just think that cold blooded murder is worth life in prison. It's neither impossible nor unprecedented for someone under the age of 18 to commit a crime so severe that it warrants life in prison, in lieu of the death penalty. On the other hand, allowing an extreme, cold blooded murderer to go back to society and freedom as if nothing happened is much more barbaric, as a negation of the value of destroyed and stolen innocent human life.

Why is a very long jail sentence followed by a return to society acting as if nothing happened? Jails in the USA are awful, and spending decades locked inside one isn't a walk in the park just because of the mere existence of life sentences.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:40 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is not a country that cares about its people. There are people here and there that care about other people, but America as a whole doesn't give two shits about its citizens.

All we do is pay lip service, day in and day out.
posted by erratic meatsack at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, ask our native american population about the United State's commitment to honoring treaties it signs.
posted by el io at 11:07 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


FWIW, reservations to treaties are quite common across the world, and need to be examined for stupidity on a per-reservation level, not just on a "they do reservations" level.

iirc, for example Syria literally puts a reservation into every treaty it signs saying "even though we're a signatory and Israel's a signatory, we don't recognize the State of Israel. Countries are petty and silly, sometimes

What differentiates an "extreme. cold blooded murderer" from a murderer who only gets a few years in prison?

My understanding is that the cold-blooded murderers are actually lizard people. Hence the cold blood.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:48 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


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