06 July 2014

What the Hell is Wrong with Us?

I found this blog post last night. Let's not get into how or why I stumbled over this, but it's simply not right.

From milkboys.com...here is the full URL: http://milkboys.org/why-is-a-kid-whos-a-first-time-nonviolent-offender-sent-to-a-death-row-high-security-prison/ :
     Last year, a group of teens in Utah entered a home and held two people at gunpoint with the intent to commit robbery. The youngest of the boys, 16-year-old Cooper Van Huizen, provided his father’s guns to his cohorts but did not use them himself. In the end, the boys left with a cell phone, a bag of marijuana, and $10 cash. The victims were were terrified but physically unharmed.
     Under a plea deals, two of the older boys, are serving 210 and 180 days in jail respectively after admitting guilt to second-degree felony counts. The two other teens are awaiting sentencing. In March, after his case was removed from juvenile and sent to adult court, Van Huizen took the same plea deal as the first two teens. The defence attorney told his parents they would petition to reduce the charges to misdemeanours after he completed his probation. They were also told it was very likely he would not have to serve any jail time as he was a first time offender.
So what happened?
     On May 7, Van Huizen appeared before the same judge that sentenced his co-defendants. In a move that surprised the defence and prosecution, District Judge Ernie Jones deemed the plea deal illegal and “too soft” for his crimes. He sentenced the first time 16-year-old offender to two 1-15 years to Utah’s maximum security prison.
Unitah 1 is the highest security building in Utah’s state prison system. It houses 93 inmates, including gang members, sex offenders and those serving on death row. Inmates spend 23 hours a day in a solitary cell, with a single window allowing natural light. Reports from prisoners in Unitah 1 have included round the clock victimization, suicide attempts, rotten food and “every kind of psychological, social, and verbal dehumanization known to man.”
     The inmates now include first time, nonviolent offender, 16-year-old Cooper Van Huizen.
There are a lot of news stories about this. Here's one:
And another:

Cooper is NOT innocent. But to place a 16yo boy, who has never committed a crime before in his life, into an adult maximum security prison, is an abomination. All too often, we place teenagers in adult situations. Every study ever done shows that teens' brains are not developed to the same extent as adult brains.

I just think that rational adults need to protest against adult treatment of juvenile offenders. Yes, there are exceptions. But this isn't one of them. I am asking you to please help in any way you can. I've asked two other blog and Facebook friends, Michael Bowler and Michael Hamar, the first an author that works with incarcerated youth and fights for equal rights for juveniles, and the latter a local attorney who works with activists to help. I'd like to ask you to sign the change.org petition asking the judge's superior to intervene and help. You can find the petition here:

PLEASE!!!! Do you want YOUR teenage child sent to an adult maximum security prison for a moment of indiscretion when, especially, his "co-conspirators" received sentences an order of magnitude below this? Please try to help Cooper. If you know lawyers, if you know anyone in the ACLU, if you know anyone in Utah...and SPREAD THE WORD!!!! PLEASE!!!

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