I should be in jail…?

Several arrests have been made recently across the United States related to high school kids who were allegedly plotting to launch violent attacks against their fellow students…

The kids kept detailed journals where they idolized the perpetrators in mass-shootings that came before them.  They had amassed stock piles of weapons and ammunition.  They had, in some instances, procured the items needed to assemble pipe bombs.  And, a few had even picked dates with which they hoped to carry out their assault.

Innocent lives were saved.  The suspects were caught in time to perhaps turn their own lives around through intervention and rehabilitation.  This is a win-win.

So, why is it, then, that these cases don’t sit well with me?  They make me nervous.  They make me uncomfortable.

Part of it is that I currently know someone in jail who has written to me about the conditions there.  The inmates are treated like criminals.  They are disrespected.  They are abused.  They are thrown into a cycle where the system actually makes it harder for them to turn their lives around.  So, rather than these kids getting the help they need, they are actually being taught they can’t be helped, they will always be criminals, and there is no hope for them.  What do we expect to happen when they are released?  What kind of lives will they lead?

I have no qualms with saying our prison culture is part of the reason we have such a high rate of repeat offenders.

Is sending these kids to jail really the right thing to do?  They haven’t actually hurt anyone yet.  Are we perhaps actually turning them into criminals by putting them in that environment…

But, that is only part of what makes me uncomfortable.  A small part.  An afterthought.  These stories hit close to home, because I could have easily been one of those kids.

Per California Law:

“CALCRIM 600 — Attempted Murder.  (“The defendant is charged [in Count ] with [violating California’s] attempted murder law. To prove that the defendant is guilty of attempted murder, the People must prove that: [1] The defendant took at least one direct but ineffective step toward killing (another person/ [or] a fetus); AND [2] The defendant intended to kill that (person/ [or] fetus).”)”

That’s it.  Two steps to be charged with attempted murder.  Take one action towards killing a person (have access to a firearm) and have the intention of carrying through with the act (the mental preparedness to actually take a life).

That seems overly simple.

But, that’s the law.  So, okay, take 14 year old me, lock him in prison and throw away the key.

I had access to two guns in my home.  I knew where they were stored.  I knew where the ammunition was kept for them.  And, I had been trained to a high degree of accuracy on both from a very young age, from my family and through the Boy Scouts.

I had a list.  It wasn’t brief.  It was long.  On that list were the names of all the people who had wronged me and wronged the people I loved.  When the day came that I couldn’t take it anymore I planned on killing everyone on that list.

I took a step towards killing and I had the intention to do so should the right circumstances arrive.

How am I different from the kids that have been arrested, tried, and jailed?

Is the only difference that I never told anyone about my plan?  That there was no Facebook or Twitter or blog journal where someone could see my rantings and alert authorities about my frame of mind?

Obviously, the day never came.  I survived the terrible years of being bullied in junior high and high school.  I went to college.  I got a job.  I got married.  We started a family.  I’m a well-adjusted contributing member of society.  I pay my taxes!

So, what’s the right solution here?

Obviously we don’t want any innocent lives to be lost, but are we dooming other innocents to a life of crime by incarcerating them simply because they had a plan that they may or may not have carried through with one day in the future?

Do you think I should have gone to jail as a 14 year old?

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53 thoughts on “I should be in jail…?

  1. This is excellent article. One thing too I want to bring up that you kind of mention, is the fact that a majority of these children are bullied, belittled and otherwise made to feel like crap. So not only are we turning them into criminals, we are also enforcing the bullying that has been done to them. These a children who need help and feel the only way they can bring attention to what is happening is lashing out against those they feel that put them there. I don’t believe person should ever be punished for being the victim of bullying and yet that is what is happening.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bullying definitely has a role in this, along with other forms of abuse. Mental illness as well.
      And some truly evil people.
      I don’t want to take anything away from the victims but the one size fits all throw them in jail “solution” is anything but.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Thank you for supporting this community.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that an intervention of sorts is needed, but jail is not the answer when they’ve not actually carried out the plan. Find out why they feel the need to make such a plan. Look at their whole lives, at home, at work (if they work) and at school. Why has someone who should be enjoying life and getting an education ended up in such a dark place to begin with? That’s the question that should be asked, followed swiftly by “and how can we get them the help they need?” Because some of these kids will have been abused by someone close to them, a family member, a teacher, another kid at the school (bullying is abuse after all), and some of them will have a more delicate mental state, and these are issues that will not be solved by locking them up.

    I think the system has broken again.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m going to pull a quote from the documentary made about Columbine by that person most people hate, the guy from Flint, Michigan. He asked Marilyn Manson what he would have said to the two shooters since it had come out that they were fans of his music. Manson said: I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have listened to them instead, because that is what they needed (or something close to that).

    We want to slap a bandaid on some issues and not look deeper into problems. Part of it is still that stigma of mental illness, part of it is just social-class-based “that would never happen here” denial.

    And that law, as quoted, makes me very nervous for several reasons, but that’s for another day.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think it’s actually pretty normal to plot the demise of those who harm us.. especially as children…because we feel so helpless and the world is out of our control. I guess the trick is trying to know which children will follow through with such dark thoughts. I don’t know for sure that there is a way to know that? In fact I would venture to say that there isn’t. I don’t think I ever wrote down my list, but there definitely was a list, and in my case the people on my list deserved retribution, maybe not death… lol Maybe I knew even then that they didn’t deserve death and my other options were so severely limited being a child that I just had to bide my time. Everything comes around eventually. I don’t like the idea of incarcerating anyone innocent anymore than you do. This is an issue that deserves some more looking into.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One thing that bothers me is this…..they haven’t done anything! Now many would put ‘yet’ into that. That’s just it, there may not be a ‘yet’. They are bullied, emotionally broken and they make a list, some might even go as far as collecting items to do the deed. But, they haven’t done anyone harm. They haven’t done anything but that. So how as we, as adults, feel it is necessary to put them in further harms way? How can we justify that in our minds and hearts as the thing to do? I said what I am going to say on another blog recently. I fear we humans have lost our humanity. And that is a very scary thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ll be the one to argue this.

    “The inmates are treated like criminals” well I kinda hope so. Nothing against rara of course and others who are innocent in prison but the majority of people who are inmates are indeed criminals. So, yeh, I want them treated as such. As unpopular as my view may be, there it is.

    These kids they are picking up, are they actually putting them in prison? Does it say somewhere what is being done once they are picked up?

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    • A hard life should definitely be part of jail, I’m not arguing against that. But without respect and some semblance of hope for a prosperous life on the outside, they remain criminals forever.
      Some of the kids were convicted and are serving long sentences. Others, still awaiting trial, are in jail or at home with their family.

      Like

  7. Very thougt provoking post. The problem that most don’t realize that there are always two sides to each story. Life is never a black & white there are gray zones.

    The Law should rehabilitate these children. We have a programm in Namibia (NGO) where people living in the country/farm/rural area, take in troubled teens, and try get some positivity into them. These teens are usually from Germany. Very often it helps them gain a different perspective on life.

    As for bulling, that seriously needs to be adressed on a global scale! It is no coincedence that there is an ever increasing rate of school masacars. We need to teach our children respect from all ages.

    And reading that law , that is scary. Honestly I don’t know what the sollution is, but perhaps you should consider writing to your news agency so that people can become aware and lobby for an anti bulli law, a teenage rehab law.

    Much respect to you.

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    • The idea of a teenage rehab law has me intrigued. I’ll need to do some research to see what is already available. Each state may have programs that are supposed to act like that, though probably not to the extent you are describing. Our society seems happier to lock people away and forget about them instead of helping them into opportunities that will turn their lives around and be better for society as a whole.
      Bullying does need to be addressed on a global scale… Laws may not be enough. We need to change our parenting and culture to get it out of our homes first.
      Thank you for reading and be a part of this discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t think you should have gone to jail as a 14-year-old, but you should have gotten help you obviously weren’t getting. The problem with some of these shootings is that some of these kids are being bullied and no one, school officials specifically, are doing nothing to help these bullied children. You can only take so much before you snap.

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    • The same can be said for some of the kids that are now sitting in jail for doing nothing but talking about killing… they need help, they don’t need jail.
      We need to admit that we are failing this generation of children and work towards creating safer more stable environments for them. Does that start at home? Does that start at school?
      And is it too late for those who have already fallen victim to this system of fear?

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s kinda what I was getting at. By not taking bullying seriously, school administrators are failing more than just the children being bullied. They are failing the kids perpetrating the bullying, as well.

        As for where it starts, it should start at home. The ultimate responsibility for the upbringing of every child is that child’s parents. But the schools have a duty to those children, too. As parents, we are trusting our children’s well-being to our schools when we send them there. And it’s not like we have a choice in the matter. School is mandatory. And we’d have to be fairly wealthy to have the opportunity to home-school our kids.

        As for the children already arrested…are they actually in jail or in a juvenile detention center. I would certainly hope that kids in a JVC are treated better than prison inmates.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a very tangled web, and I’m grateful all the comments are so respectful and thoughtful. The CA law as you have provided harkens to the Thought Police of 1984 and Thought Crime of Minority Report. Both Orwell and Dick saw the fallacy in criminalizing thoughts because no one, not even the one doing the thinking, knows if or when the thought will translate into action.

    One of the uncomfortable truths about Homo sapiens is that the species is prone to incredible acts of violence, just like it is capable of extraordinary acts of compassion. It’s who and what we are. We are complicated and full of potential failures so it’s only understandable that our laws would be also. Ultimately, there will be no simple solutions or quick fixes, because we cannot (and should not) look into the mind and heart of someone else.

    Several commenters have brought up the issue of mental illness and that it is not taken seriously in this country. I fully agree with this. I don’t know why we as a society have a problem accepting that our brains can become ill just like any other part of our body but it has become such an ostrich head in the sand reaction that I don’t know how we can even begin to address it. I think it somehow comes from our Calvinist roots, but I’m not for sure.

    While it does appear that the majority of young crime perpetrators and victims are part of some bully vs. bullied circle we are dealing here in WA with one that happened two weeks ago where the assailant was supposedly a fully functioning and well liked member of his community. Since in the end of his spree he took his own life, it is very doubtful if we will ever know what the motivating factor or factors were.

    Thanks for letting me ramble. Your post really got me little brain humming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are always welcome to ramble… rambling brings up good thoughts.
      Yes, the recent WA incident was different from most of the others… and serves as reminder that no matter what laws are in place, or how much we try to protect ourselves from ourselves, bad things will still happen. That ties into mental health – we are too afraid to admit that we can be that fundamentally frail and flawed. We are too afraid to admit that sometimes there is no logical explanation for our behavior, for our violence. We don’t want to address mental health because we’d be forced to admit that it could happen to us, to our family, to our children, and ignorance, ignoring the problem truly is bliss in that case.
      “because we cannot (and should not) look into the mind and heart of someone else” – this is perfectly stated, and exactly why it terrifies me that these kids are in jail.

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      • I think you have definitely struck on something regarding mental illness. While most illnesses that happen to the body (like cancer, Parkinson’s, Ebola) can be quantified and are in the physical world, when the mind is attacked by illness there isn’t always a way to see it, so we often make the judgement that it doesn’t actually exist.

        Why can’t we, along with all the other wonderful, intelligent, people commenting here be the ones in charge? At the very least, we would shake things up! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Doesn’t everybody think of murder at some point? Even frequently? Face it, we all get pissed off, we all want to do evil to the guy who cut us off in traffic, the bullying boss, the nagging spouse. Every one of us. But we don’t. I have a butcher knife in my house, which means that when I get annoyed at anyone from family to repairmen who never have the fucking part needed to fix whatever shouldn’t have broken in the first place, the unthinkable could happen … should I go to jail because I have the means to kill as well as dice veggies?

    People are no longer taught how to work through their anger and their problems. Instead they are reported, prosecuted, ridiculed. And it starts from an early age.

    The police are called for everything these days. About 7 years ago, my son was in his high school Spanish class. The teacher was late, and Jacob and a friend started playing catch with an apple. The teacher returned to the room just as Jacob had thrown the apple to his friend; the friend put his hand down, and the apple hit the wall. THE POLICE WERE CALLED. No damage was done (except to the apple) that a cloth wouldn’t remedy. Nobody was hurt. Nobody was threatened. They wanted to suspend Jacob. My lawyer husband managed to prevent that.

    But we do need to stop making lethal weapons that are only used to kill people unavailable to folks. Because it seems that these days, killing is much easier than kindness.

    And DJ, you’re right about this. I’m awfully glad you didn’t go to jail.

    Like

    • They called the cops over an apple???!!
      Good grief. Where has our common sense gone? Why are our children no longer allowed any leeway to work through their emotions, test their limits, be, you know, the children that they are, trying to make sense of a world that they will never truly understand.
      Killing is easier than kindness… Kindness requires emotions, forgiveness, and the capacity to think further into the future. Killing is immediate…
      I’m not sure that removing access to weapons is the first step on that path, as those who want to do harm will always find a way… we need to change that mindset first. We need to remove the desire to reach for the weapons, whatever form those weapons might take.
      I’m glad I didn’t go to jail too!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. When I heard about the school shooting in Washington I was sick about it. I picked up my daughter from her high school that afternoon and thought “Their schools are so much alike.”

    Then there was a threat at her high school and four other high schools in the district. Only one child was caught and arrested.

    I recently posted about this because the girl who was recently arrested (and made national news) for writing a threat on the bathroom wall was a student at my daughter’s high school.

    I received 4 phone messages from the principal, about half a dozen email messages, half the kids stayed home. It was a prank – a joke, made by a 14 year old girl who wanted to get Monday off. That prank has ruined her life. I’m sure her parents were horrified. Nobody thinks their kid will be so stupid. Nobody thinks it will be their daughter who writes with a glittery purple Sharpie threats on the bathroom wall as a prank.

    She was arrested and according to my daughter put up a huge struggle. Even though she admitted it was a prank and turned herself in she will still be punished as if it was a real threat.

    She is in jail now and God knows what will happen to this girl. She isn’t like the kids who end up in juvenile hall. It will be hell for her (it is for most kids and that is why the system never works.) She is a normal popular kid who makes good grades and never got into trouble before. What she did was horrible, wrong, in bad taste etc… but now her life and chances for college are ruined. Her reputation is ruined. She has been expelled from the school. She will lose all of her friends. Her parents will be shamed and called bad parents (even though they are not.) Her younger siblings will have to live with that as well. It is just a sad situation all the way around. I hope most kids will learn from her mistakes. It is so close to home and hits hard for our entire community. Sad, sad, sad.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, what a very sad story. My fiance’s family recently had a very similar situation. In today’s online, no filter society, it seems very easy to say something that will ultimately have very far reaching effects even if we didn’t mean for it to be. Thanks for sharing this.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing this. I’m sad for the girl… one mistake, and her the path of her future shifts drastically for the worse. And is that the right call to make especially if she admits it was a prank? Did she even have the means to carry out the “threat?” Why is their no consideration and common sense given to these kids before they are jailed? Why do we allow fear to rule our decisions when the future of all these children are at stake?
      I understand weighing the future of potential victims against the future of the potential perp, but…well, I don’t know. It’s complicated. :-/

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Yes… you should… wait… maybe I should read the post first… hold on, I will get back to you… oh hell… you really had a list of people to kill… I don’t know about jail, but I would have recommended counseling at the very least.

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    • For me? For the people who bullied me?
      You’ve never had fleeting thoughts about killing people while sitting in traffic on those terrible southern california freeways? You’ve never held on to a grudge for a pro longed period of time?
      Perhaps counseling wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. It might have helped with some self esteem issues. It might have helped me resolve my anger at an earlier age. But… I muddled through with the support of my family and friends and turned out fine without it. And, I never acted on that list…
      How many of the kids that have been arrested and jailed wouldn’t have acted on their “plans” either?

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      • I think actually writing it down is where you crossed the line. If you can’t keep them in your head, you aren’t mad enough to want to kill them. Also, how long a list does it have to be to need to write it down. I mean, there might be one or two people back then that I even considered actually killing. I mean, messing them up in some creative way, sure.

        Like

      • I think my list had … at least 20 people on it. I only distinctly remember a handful, but… yeah. It was more than one or two.
        And, I never needed to write anything down at that time because I had a steel trap memory. I heard it once, I read it once, and I could recall it for years later.

        Like

      • None. My mind and world view have developed above and beyond from where there were as a teenager… which is kind of my point… should we really be throwing away the keys on these kids (who haven’t actually acted on any threats they may have made) when they are so young?

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      • I think maybe the point here might actually be: should we let kids play with guns. Yes, you can argue that you teach them gun safety. But they aren’t mature enough to deal with anger always…

        Like

      • An interesting proposal… but, doesn’t this have more to do with our irrational fear than actual danger? Shouldn’t we address how quick we are to throw kids in jail?
        I understand the movement for common sense related to guns… I’m just not sure if that would have any effect on this. Take away the guns, and the bullied kids will find some other way to exact their revenge. Make it harder to get guns, and some of them will still end getting them and using them. Shouldn’t we address the “why” of these events first? Doesn’t it make sense to treat the under lying cause rather than one of the symptoms?

        Like

      • Sure, but mental health is a tricky thing. Even experts can’t predict when someone is going to go postal. And by then it might be a little late to try to hide the guns. We don’t let kids drink… or drive… so why do we let them play with guns? And yes, people will still go nuts and want to kill people, and yes, some of them will be able to steal guns, but they won’t have a house full of them. And they won’t be able to kill as many people without them. I would rather outrun a knife blade than a bullet.
        Also, parents rarely teach their kids to drive a car when they are 10 years old, or give them alcohol, but guns, sure, why not?

        Like

      • We might just have to disagree on the “how” of approaching a solution to this. But, I take heart that we are at least agreed that something needs to change, that these kids shouldn’t be in jail. (Though, I will say one last time that their being in jail has nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with our culture of fear.) And, if we both work towards advocating for the injustice these kids are suffering (even if they are in different manners), perhaps we can do something positive for them, and for future children who might also be unfairly impacted under similar circumstance. How does that sound?

        Like

      • I really don’t know enough about the cases you are talking about. If they broke laws or not. But there is a lot of room between a youthful fantasy of revenge and actually compiling the components of a bomb and a bunch of ammunition. I don’t want people waiting until a plot has been carried out to do something about it. So many times people tried to warn other people that some ‘kid’ was getting ready to do something like this, but it was ignored, or the system was too sloppy to take an active roll until something had already occurred. But they don’t usually just throw people in jail for talking about a crime, unless either they broke laws preparing for the crime, or were guilty of terroristic threats… which is an actual crime.

        Like

  13. This discussion could go on ad nauseam. The isn’t a teenager in the world with full brain capacity. When you are tortured as a child, you want to strike back somewhere. No, you should not go to jail. The kickback system to put kids there so someone gets there pockets lined or a promotion is only part of the problem. Where do we begin to fix it? It’s been going on as long as man has existed. As a girl, and I’m quite old, I was bullied and beaten on my way home from school, ridiculed at school and emotionally and physically abused at home. Did I want to hurt somebody? You betcha. Did I? No. I did learn to defend myself but never initiated any assaults. It’s in all of us to want to protect ourselves but we shouldn’t have to be in that position. I had a couple of good kids who were also picked on in school. Thankfully, not at home. I don’t know the solution. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have pulled my kids out of school and taught them at home. I don’t think we can change it. And I’m an optimist.

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    • The Queen and I are definitely leaning towards home schooling… The prospect of sending our Little Prince into the chaos that is public and private schools scares both of us. One mistake. One lapse of judgment, and their whole life can be ruined. That seems so ludicrous, but it the absolute truth of the situation.
      I don’t know if we can change it either, but I’m hopefully that if we talk about it. If we increase awareness and make people question the current environment we can get enough people interested in improving it that we can turn this around. I’m hopeful. I have to be hopeful because I need things to improve for my son.

      Like

      • I will tell you my thoughts on home schooling. My sister-in-law with her high school education home schooled her kids until high school. My mother was beside herself fearing the worst. They had to skip grades when they started public school they were so far ahead and so relaxed. They went on to college and did quite well. I’ve tried to do better for mine by staying present for them. They had a hard time even with neighbor kids teasing. Kids are just cruel to each other unless parents change that. Parents can be worse than the kids. There are so many unbalanced people out there having children and abusing them who in turn abuse everyone around them. I wish you well. I work at spreading kindness wherever I go in hopes that it will bring about a tiny measure of change. My children, 41 & 46 are my greatest joys and treasures because they both have kind hearts. I asked nothing more.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t think you should be in jail, and I’m glad you aren’t. Those children shouldn’t be in jail either. I don’t have any answers that will change anything because will anyone listen? No, so I will leave it at that. I hope someday that I am wrong.

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    • I hope that some day there will people who would listen to reason, in positions that could actually enact change for the better, too.
      Maybe that starts with us? Maybe we need to be more vocal about our concern over this? Maybe we need to write potential laws, gather signatures, and get the proposal on future ballots…
      … I’ve never done anything like that. But, I would help. I would try, anyway, if someone could point me in the right direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I absolutely believe that jail is the worst place these kids can go – and that you definitely should not have gone to jail. I think that if you had admitted what you were thinking about when you were a child, it would be understandable if you parents sought some psychiatric help for you until they could get at the root of those feelings and try to help. Jail does not help. It does not rehabilitate.

    I’ll always remember a quote from the movie Blow:

    “[It] Wasn’t a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine.”

    Prisons are crime school. I think there a very precious few people who actually deserve to be there.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t know how to answer your question really. Based on the letter of the law in your country yes you should have been, based on the fact that you didn’t do anything on it, no you shouldn’t have and although I don’t know you personally, we have responded on enough of each others blog posts I think for me to make a judgement call and that judgement call would be no you shouldn’t have..

    In saying that though, where do you draw the line? What if in a months’ time they had carried out their threats and wasted even 1 other person. I know that if someone killed someone I new closely; a family member maybe then I would want all the hurt, pain and suffering in the world to fall down on that person, I would want them to die a very slow, painful agonising death. It that bad of me? Probably should I consider mental illness, probably, but that term annoys me as it is given as an reason for so much crime.

    Overall I think I would find it extremely difficult to say “oh they should be helped in a hospital because of their x mental disease” or anything like that. Probably a flaw in my makeup but it is what it is and I cannot help the way I feel on it.

    Because let’s face it even if I was able to think that way, we all know that they wouldn’t get what was needed, cutbacks are a reality to every country and there are many people walking around that are on a knife edge and all we do Is offer our sympathies and say “these people should have been monitored / should never have been released / whatever other comment when their victims have been found butchered in some box in someone’s freezer, or half the maths class mown down with various semi-automatic weapons.

    So with these kids that had a list, a stockpile of weapons and ammo, and the probable will to do it, what do you do? Sit down and have a chat and work out their problems, would it stop things like – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29879865 – maybe, maybe not.

    I don’t think there is any easy answer really.

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