People deserve second chances

El McCabe

Writer

When it comes to change, there are two perspectives on the issue: the belief that humans are dynamic and capable of bettering themselves, and the belief that people cannot change under any circumstances. Believers of the latter contend that people who commit crimes and make mistakes should not be given second chances. In their minds, convicts and incarcerated individuals do not deserve bail or another chance to reenter society because they will continue to commit crimes and break laws. I believe this view is misguided and ignorant at best, especially when it comes to minors. In reality, people make mistakes and break rules all of the time. It just happens that some crimes are worse than others, and some people are better at evading law enforcement than others. It is terrifying to think that a mistake that someone makes as a 17-year-old could affect the rest of their life.

Think about all of the ridiculous, immature, and inexplicable things you did in the first 17 years of your life. Think of all the times you felt pressured to act a certain way or do something that you knew wasn’t right. Everyone has experienced peer-pressure to some degree in their lives, and most can think back to a time they did something they regretted. Serious offenses cannot be overlooked, but holding children and teens completely accountable for their early misdemeanors is unreasonable. Besides, locking up a child under age 18 for his entire life is not a viable solution. The child will never learn from his actions and will grow to resent the law and its enforcers for the rest of his life. The state and federal government will shovel thousands of tax dollars onto this child until he dies and another minor takes his spot. The child’s parents will never get to see their child grow up and contribute to society. Tax payers will lose money on this child’s incarceration costs that could be used for more effective purposes, such as bettering institutions to keep kids from committing crimes in the first place.

After a major decision in the Supreme Court last year, minors can no longer be granted life sentences for their crimes. It declared that dealing out life sentences to minors was “cruel and unusual punishment” and unconstitutional by all accounts. This decision was the first necessary step of many that need to be taken in order to fully grant individuals second chances. It is safe to say that there are still many flaws in the American penal system, but granting minors more rights is a victory to take note of. Real change will occur only when people cease to believe that imprisonment is the solution to crime. Our country needs to stop focusing on punishment, and focus more on prevention. Only then will crime rates decrease and prisons will stop overflowing.

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