"Like many youthful offenders, Quantel Lotts grew up fast,
exposed at a young age to drugs, violence, and poverty. When he was
eleven years old, he saw one of his uncles shot to death in a drug
dispute. Drug addiction ran rampant in his family. His mother was a
crack addict who went missing for days in his hometown of Saint Louis,
Missouri. With drugs came violence, and Quantel's family members beat
him regularly. Quantel says, 'I was taught that most problems can be
solved with violence.'"
Not surprisingly, Quantel became enmeshed in the justice system
at a young age. He stabbed a stepbrother to death in a fight.
Despite only being fourteen when he committed the crime, he was tried
as an adult and sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He
tattooed the words "dead man" on his arm.
I imagine we'd all like to think of juvenile justice as fair--a
process by which society is protected from crime and law breakers are
either punished, rehabilitated, or both of the above. Some of us also
want judges to take factors such as the relative immaturity of
judgement of teens and their potential to change for the better.
Patrick Jones' Teen Incarceration: From Cell Bars To Ankle Bracelets
shows us how two major factors have helped determine the fate of
younger law breakers--even whether they lived or died.
The first factor is historical era. Convictions held by the
public effect how issues of crime and punishment are dealt with.
Many of you will recall the superpredator scare of the 1990s in which
we were warned of a generation of remorseless psychopaths menacing us
all. Too many young lives were destroyed by this tough on crime
The second factor is race. Very few people get through their
teen years and early twenties without at least a status offense (an
act that is criminal because of age). I, for example, consumed
alcohol well before my twenty-first birthday. Blacks are at much
higher risk than white peers for everything from being shunted into
the school-to-prison pipeline to being shot dead by a police officer
for very common misdemeanors or even being the wrong color at the
Jones also describes a continuum of consequences ranging from
non institutional diversion programs such as community service to
capital punishment and life without possibility of parole. He argues
cogently that, based on research, the best policy involves not locking
kids up. This not only allows youth to achieve their potential, but
keeps us all safer and demands far fewer tax dollars.
Teen Incarceration is a very important read for its target
demographic and well beyond. I'd highly recommend the book to parents
of teens and preteens.
On a personal note, the Orono Village Green, the culmination of years
of hard work on the part of people ranging from fund raiders to
construction workers and landscapers, was nicely dedicated. There
were amazingly succinct speeches at a dedication catered tastefully by
Debe Averill. Then the one and only Rick Charette gave the first
concert in the outdoor ampitheater. It was packed. Everyone was
enthusiastically singing along. When Rick asked for three adults to
hold signs for a song you can guess who was the first. Rick is a good
friend and it was wonderful to see him again.
As for Artsapalooza...
A great big shout goes out to all who participated in the day's
activities...especially Rick who gets that at heart we all love mud.
Sent from my iPod