The Supreme Court will soon decide whether its constitutional to sentence juveniles to prison for life, for crimes less than murder. Scott Greenfield thinks that constitutional issues aside:
LWOP for kids at all, no less for crimes short of murder, is just nuts. Absurd overkill is not something that any rational, reasonable legislature should ever enact. And yet they do, even though there's no empirical evidence to show that it makes any sense at all. The problem is that states that have approved of the sentence of LWOP argue their emotional justification, the super-predator fallacy, the harm to victims, the crime wave, the need to stop these children.
What's the point of sending people to prison at all? To me, it seems that you send people to prison for violating the social contract. As part of a member of organized society, I do not get to kill people who harm me. In exchange, the state removes the violent member of person from society.
What people should be removed from society? As Aristotle taught, the ability to reason is the sine qua non of a person. It's what separates us from the animals. Biologically, we are just pieces of meat - not much different from the animals we'll eat at dinner tonight. What separates humans is the ability to reason. What also separates us from animals is the ability to empathize, and to recognize the existence of other minds.
One who surrenders his reason has behaved as an animal - and should thus be treated as an animal.
We give no second thought to putting down a violent pit bull. Somehow, though, it's the sign of an unjust world when we put down incorrigibly evil human beings. Why? Why have this privileged place for violent humans? Simply because they are humans? Yet that answer begs the very question of what makes a human, human.
My dog (and my friend's pit bull) are more deserving of life than the teenagers responsible for the Dunbar Village Incident. My dog - who brings joy to nearly all he encounters - would never do anything like this:
After dark .. as many as 10 armed assailants repeatedly raped a Haitian immigrant in her apartment at Dunbar Village and then went further, forcing her to perform oral sex on her 12-year-old son. They took cellphone pictures of their acts. They burned the woman’s skin and the boy’s eyes with cleaning fluid, forced them to lie naked together in the bathtub, hit them with a broom and a gun and threatened to set them on fire.
Why do these "children" not deserve life in prison? Because ten years from now they'll realize, "It was wrong to rape and torture a woman before requiring her to perform oral sex on her own son"? Because they just made a mistake, and are deserving of a second chance? Really...Why should these teenagers be released?
Since teenagers do not have fully-developed brains, they should be excused some youthful indiscretions. Recognizing that teenagers are different should not excuse torture and gang rape. Deciding to rape and torture someone is not a cognitive error. It's not mere inability to control an impulse. It's an act of unmitigated evil.
The teenagers in the Dunbar Village Incident are privileged to remain alive. A just society would have put them down like the savage animals they are.
Oh, I know, but they are human - as if that is a self-proving argument rather than mere speciesism. If the Dunbar Village teenagers are human, then either human needs redefined; or humanity needs to be taken out by an asteroid.