In South Carlolina and a handful of other US states, children as young as 10 are being arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced as adults under mandatory sentencing laws. The number of juveniles in prison doubled between 1985 and 1997 and many states project further increases of juveniles committed to their correctional systems. According to the MacArthur Foundation, (a leading, not-for-profit research foundation), : "Momentum is gathering across the nation to replace harsh, ineffective measures with programs that address the welfare of young people while preserving safe communites." Richard E. Redding, J.D., Ph.D, of the Juvenile Forensic Evaluation Resource Center, writes: "It is difficult for juveniles to avoid being raped in prison, where at least 14% of inmates are raped, and juveniles in prison are 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those in juvenile facilities. Because these juveniles are exposed to a criminal culture where inmates commit crimes against each other, these institutions may socialize a wayward juvenile into a true career criminal." As one Federal Court explained, modern prison life "may press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate" ( Madrid v. Gomez). If prison is almost impossible for adult humans to survive, how can we expect children, whose brains are still forming well past the age of eighteen, to survive intact? Please sign this petition and ensure that your voice be heard for children whose voices have been silenced.
PETITION TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA LEGISLATURE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF JUVENILES ACT
We, the undersigned, do hereby petition the South Carolina Legistlature to immediately and without further delay, demolish madatory sentencing laws for all juveniles below the age of 18.
Mandatory minimums established for adult sentencing deprive judges of the right to dispense juvenile justice on an individual basis. Currently, prosecutors, who may stand to gain politically, as well as mandatory minimum sentencing laws, dictate punishments which are often inappropriate for crimes committed by children.
South Carolina judges should have their authority restored, thereby enabling them to dispense fair and just sentences to the children of South Carolina in the juvenile justice system.
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, DO HEREBY PETITION THE SOUTH CAROLINA LEGISLATURE TO SUPPORT AND PASS INTO LAW:
SEAN'S BILL - THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF JUVENILES ACT
1. NO CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF 18 MAY BE SUBJECTED TO MANDATORY SENTENCING.
2. CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18, WHEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, SHALL BE SUBJECT TO THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE OR RELEASE AT THE AGE OF 21.
3. CHILDREN WITHOUT A HISTORY OF PRIOR CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR SHALL NOT BE TRIED IN AN ADULT COURT.
4. REHABILITATION WITHIN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM MUST INCLUDE DAILY COUNSELING AND / OR EDUCATION.
5. CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18 MUST HAVE AN ATTORNEY AND A GUARDIAN PRESENT BEFORE THEIR MIRANDA RIGHTS CAN BE READ.
6. CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18 MUST NOT BE QUESTIONED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY OR LAWFUL GUARDIAN PRESENT.
7. ALL QUESTIONING OF CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18 BY LAW ENFORCEMENT MUST BE VIDEOTAPED.
8. ANY MENTALLY ILL OR MENTALLY DISADVANTAGED CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF 18 WHO COMMITS A CRIME MUST BE TRIED AS A JUVENILE IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
10. ALL HIGH SCHOOLS SHALL PROVIDE FIRST YEAR STUDENTS (FRESHMAN) WITH A SEMINAR CONDUCTED BY A LAWYER THAT EXPLAINS THE LAW AS IT APPLIES TO JUVENILES.
11. THIS BILL IS RETROACTIVE FOR ALL CASES INVOLVING CHILDREN THAT WERE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 AT THE TIME OF THEIR ARREST AND LATER TRIED AS ADULTS.
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