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‘Children Do Not Have the Same Capacity as Adults to Control Their Reactions.’

A selection of recent letters from our readers.

“Children do not have the same capacity as adults to control their reactions.”

“As a former juvenile court judge and a parent of three young adult children, I have seen firsthand what adolescent brain research has confirmed: children do not have the same capacity as adults to control their reactions, think through the long-term consequences of their behaviors or avoid pressure from peers and adults. We know that most children grow out of any propensity for illegality by the time they reach their late 20s. Accordingly, we do not need lengthy sentences such as life (with or without parole) to protect public safety.”

— Gail Garinger, Child Advocate for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in response to What’s Justice for Kids Who Kill?

“Prisons do bad things to all people who occupy them.”

“Dana Goldstein's assessment of the literature on prison guards neglected to consider some recent research that links prison guards’ perceptions about the people under their care and their jobs in the context of a broader socio-political landscape…In an evaluation of prisons in England, for example, researchers from the University of Cambridge found that staff perceptions of safety — or the lack of it — were related less to actual levels of violence than to staff members’ trust in senior management and their confidence in their job...Prisons do bad things to all people who occupy them.”

— Alexandra Cox, sociology professor at SUNY New Paltz, in response to What Are Corrections Officers So Afraid Of?

“The chances for getting a parole [in Ohio] have been about the same as hitting on the lottery.”

“For the past several years with a parole rate of approximately 4%, with the Board's decision-making fixated on the ‘nature of the case,’ for which the inmate is serving, the chances for getting a parole [in Ohio] have been about the same as hitting on the lottery.”

— Barry Wilford of Columbus, Ohio, in response to Life Without Parole

“Coalitions have formed across [California] to move resources away from jails and towards alternatives to incarceration.”

“It is refreshing to see a critique of public safety realignment that doesn't come from a fear mongering perspective...Coalitions have formed across [California] to move resources away from jails and towards alternatives to incarceration. Here in Alameda County community members have organized to win 50% of the realignment dollars being directed to community-based services instead of to the deep pockets law enforcement.”

— Emily Harris, state field director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, in response to California’s Jail-building Boom

“Every state seems to have [a penal system] that is the worst in the country.”

“I was grateful to learn that Rikers is now being run by Joe Ponte, but I think your readers might benefit from a fuller picture of his background, if only to gain a better understanding of the penal system nationwide. Every state seems to have one that is the worst in the country. In Massachusetts, that place was called Walpole when Ponte worked there…he was the subject of so many lawsuits and disciplinary actions that the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its series on conditions at Walpole, a lengthy exploration of the kind of sadistic behavior that is emblematic of our prison system nationally.”

— Jeff Blanchard of Brewster, Massachussetts, in response to This is Rikers