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TinotopiaLog → Bully Another Kid, Go To Jail? (10 Mar 2002)
Sunday 10 March 2002

Bully Another Kid, Go To Jail?

John Law is cracking down on bullying in at least one county in Minnesota.

Prosecutor James Backstrom slides an edge of steel into his voice and lays out one of the toughest juvenile-justice policies in the nation: School bullies will go to jail.

I have no problem with this, providing it’s carried out properly. I doubt that it will be, or that it is already:

Some judges have been quick to put any kid who lashes out in jail. Others find reasons to excuse schoolyard fights - the kid was provoked, he’s under stress - and hand down more traditional sentences of community service or counseling. Prosecutors estimate that about a dozen bullies have done time behind bars so far.

It seems pretty simple to me. Commit assault and battery against another person, whether you’re 8 or 38 years old, and you get punished. A child isn’t likely to do a lot of damage to another child, and children don’t have a complete set of social skills, so they shouldn’t be punished as severely. Offenses — I mean actual offenses like larceny and assault, not drawing a picture of a gun — committed by children should be punished in some imitation of the adult punishment for the same offense; this is part of the socialization process.

Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom recently seems to be that, because children don’t yet have a full set of social skills, we’ve got to throw the book at them for everything. It’s a binary justice system: either you’re innocent and free, or you’re Jeffrey Dahmer. If you’re under eighteen in the U.S. today, there’s not much middle ground.

Kids are being expelled from school and in some cases prosecuted for infractions that cause no harm and threaten no potential harm to anyone, and nobody’s particularly surprised any more. My guess is that this move, while sane on its face, will only push that unfortunate trend further. Kids who spend a night or two in kiddie jail for assault will not get the right message, if their cellie is in for saying “bang, bang” while pointing at someone.

Posted by tino at 11:59 10.03.02
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she wouldn’t work for us

Posted by: Richel at December 13, 2002 06:14 PM