Fightback: We are Born Naked & Hungry; Then it Gets Worse!

by Sylvia Weinstein

In the good ol’ USA it can certainly get worse. Seventy-three young men who are too young in age to vote, smoke, or drink are on death row awaiting execution. Three young men who had committed crimes before they were 18 years old have already been executed.

The United States is the only industrial nation that is executing its children. It is ignoring the humane laws that have existed for as long as 100 years recognizing that young people who commit crimes of murder are not treated as adults.

It ignores what the American Society for Adolescents tells us: Adolescents who “commit capital crimes very often suffer from serious psychological and family disturbances, which exacerbate their already existing vulnerabilities.”

Certainly the U.S. can no longer champion itself as a beacon of human rights. The true nature of these executions exposes the barbaric nature of imperialism.

On Jan. 10, 2000, the state of Virginia executed Douglas Christophe Thomas-and Steven Roach three days later, for crimes committed when they were youths. Texas, which has executed eight juvenile offenders since 1973 and currently has 28 youthful offenders on death row, executed Glenn McGinnis on Jan. 25 for his crimes as a youth.

Organizations such as the European Union, the American Bar Association and even Pope John Paul II sent pleas to Gov. George W. Bush asking that he commute McGinnis’s sentence to life in prison but their pleas were in vain. Braveheart George had to get his kicks so he murdered Glenn McGinnis on schedule.

About 73 other juvenile offenders are awaiting execution on death row throughout the United States. More than two-thirds of them are minorities. Fifty-one percent are Black, 16 percent are Latinos, and 31 percent are white. They are all male. But you will note that most of them are Black.

Out of the 38 death penalty states, 19 execute 16 and 17- year-olds, and four execute those 17 and older.

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court held that executing children under the age of 16 violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban against “cruel and unusual punishment” because it is contrary to “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,”

Pete Wilson, the former governor of California, who was the godfather of Proposition 21, has floated the idea that the death penalty should be lowered to age 14. Texas legislator Jim Pitts has proposed lowering the age of execution to the age of 11. Isn’t that the Pitts?

Soon they will be raiding child-care centers to pick out minority children and throw them onto death row.

This tendency to treat juveniles as adults took a real growth spurt during the 1980s and ’90s. The headlines about crack-cocaine and youth gangs gave an excuse to crack down on juvenile offenders.

Last year, Nathanial Abraham, who was only 11 when he committed murder, was tried as an adult in Michigan. Right now, more than a quarter of youths in adult prisons are between the ages of 13 and 16.

In spite of all the headlines screaming about young gangsters, the truth is that less than one half of 1 percent of American kids were arrested for violent crime last year. In fact, youth crime has been decreasing in every state.

All but the United States and Somalia have ratified the 10-year-old UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids the death penalty against youths under 18.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has more than 144 signatory countries, also bans the execution of those who commit crimes under the age of 18. The U.S. has not signed on to this either..

Lets just hope that Elian Gonzalez` can get back to Cuba, where they do respect and care for children.

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SPONSORED By THE MOBILIZATION TO FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL & THE INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL. CO-SPONSORS: Courage Foundation/Assange & Middle East Children’s Alliance, Arab Resource Organizing Center. HEAR Alice Walker, prize-winning novelist; Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers; Jamal Jr, Mumia’s grandson; Chris Hedges, prize-winning journalist


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