A 14 year old kid kills a man on a bus and the victim’s 12 year old son wants justice … saying put him in jail for a long time so that he can’t hurt anyone else. The victim’s son echoes what society has to say about children, who commit crimes, punish them and never forget what they did; before grieving, even before taking the time to cherish memories and definitely before asking how a child came to do such a thing. Angel Rojas died at the hands of somebody’s child, a 14-year-old gunman who opened fire on a Brooklyn bus March 20, 2014. In this case, the victim’s son wants another child locked up for a long time.
Understandable, but even if that does happen, and it probably will since the 14 year old kid is Black and even though most juveniles name are kept out of the press this one’s was in print media the next day, he’s only 14 and will more likely live to get out. But the question is, what will he be like after spending 10, 20 or more years in prison with little and maybe less guidance? If charged as a juvenile he’s facing a maximum sentence of 10 to life and if charged as an adult it’s 25 to life; remember, the 10 and 25 years are the respective minimums, meaning that they are the least amount of time he will do and could conceivably face an additional two years each time he appears before the parole board and could possibly spend his entire life behind bars. Easily, he could appear before five parole boards and do an additional 10 years to the minimum of either 10 or 25 years.
For sure, gun-towers, razor-wire, and prison walls and steel bars will be in his future for many years to come. I realize that he killed a man, though I also realize that it’s been scientifically proven that the portion of the brain responsible for making decisions does not fully develop until a person reaches their mid-twenties. No, he should not just walk away as if nothing happen, but he should be provided with an opportunity to earn and have a second chance at life; counseled and educated as well as given the prospect of redeeming himself.
What he made was a mistake … no, not choosing to pick up, aim and fire a gun on a city bus; none of those were mistakes, he knew what he was doing, even at 14. The mistake was in his aim; allegedly he was aiming to hit a rival but missed him and murdered an innocent man. There was a time when rivals at that age meant sports—they played on different teams—but that changed and it’s not at all uncommon for the teams to be gangs and the sport blood. This kid did not create the situation that cost Angel Rojas his life and his son a father; no, he was as much an instrument of destruction as the handgun used in the incident. One was produced in a factory somewhere that generates no revenue for the communities where they do so much harm and damage, the other on the streets of cities that are filled with the underprivileged, undereducated, and often underdogs that has succumb to the hopelessness there, even if they’re only 14-years-old.
Too often the cry is for punishment and not the nourishment of education and guidance that should be a birthright to every child born in America. Billions of dollars are spent to assist other countries, but a segment of America’s youth are left to fend for their selves, to arm and protect themselves from situations they did not create and are being born into. With the large scale victimization of children is there any wonder America has the number of violent children it does. Not only are they not cared for properly, they’re punished severely more times than not.
When a 14-year-old has made enough bad decisions in his life to the point where a gun is in his hand and he’s letting off shots on a bus full of people, the problem is much larger than this one child. In fact, he’s not the problem or better yet, the illness—yes, as a society we’re sick when our children are left to rise, protect, maim and kill themselves—but only one of the many symptoms of what’s wrong. Each day, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, in America; 4 children are killed by abuse or neglect, 7 children or teens are killed by guns and 187 children are arrested for violent crimes.” In 2010, 2,694 children and teens died from guns in the United States—one child or teen every three hours and 15 minutes, seven every day, 51 every week for a year. More than six times as many children and teens—18,270—suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2010. This is equal to one child or teen every 30 minutes, 50 every day, and 351 children and teens every week .”
While this country refuses to nurture youth of color in its urban communities, it continues to imprison them at a high rate as the chart below shows. “Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show that youth confinement peaked in 1995, at 107,637 in confinement on a single day. Since then the number of youth confined has dropped by nearly 37,000 to 70,792 ”, which still makes America a leader in locking up children.