Stuff White People Say

October 26, 2009

American Privilege

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 6:29 pm

I don’t know if there is research of how deeply American privilege impacts white privilege regarding white Americans, but I think the ‘double-privilege’, which seems to be mostly ignored is also important to understand the white American mind and therefore American white supremacy.

And for all who are interested, American nuclear weapons on German ground are one reason why I am trying to combat white supremacy and with rallying against American nw I started becoming aware of politics and more. I was around 14 back then.

New German government to seek removal of US nuclear weapons

Foreign Minister-designate Guido Westerwelle has renewed calls for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons based in Germany, saying he would hold talks with the Obama adminstration on the issue.

Speaking at a meeting of his business-friendly FDP party in Berlin on Sunday, Westerwelle said the new German government would support the vision of US President Barack Obama for a world free of nuclear weapons.

“We will take President Obama at his word and enter talks with our allies so that the last of the nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can finally be removed,” Westerwelle said.

“Germany must be free of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that he would personally make efforts towards that purpose.

No unilateral move to remove nuclear arms

His comments came a day after his FDP party reached agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives for a new center-right government scheduled to take office on October 28.

The coalition agreement reached by the two sides calls specifically for talks with NATO and the US to remove the weapons.

Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed this goal, but emphasized no unilateral action would be taken to remove the nuclear warheads. “We do not want any independent action here,” Merkel said on Saturday in Berlin.

The US, which deployed nuclear weapons in various European countries in the 1950s, is estimated to have 20 atomic warheads in Germany.

No official or publicly accessible information is available on where the weapons were stored. But some of the missiles are believed to be stationed at the Buechel airbase in the western German state of Rhineland- Palatinate.

Controversial issue in Germany

Westerwelle, 47, has little direct foreign policy experience. But the removal of US nuclear weapons from German soil is an issue he has regulary emphasized.

His FDP party is pro-American and has long campaigned for disarmament.

The nuclear issue, including nuclear power, is highly unpopular in Germany, with shipments of nuclear waste regularly triggering angry protests. The country has no permanent storage site for the waste.

The new German government recently agreed to reverse plans to abandon nuclear power. Berlin is eager to reduce dependency on gas and oil imports, but environmentalists have already vowed to fight the decision.”



October 25, 2009

The schizophrenic mind of whites

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 9:14 pm

There is one topic I am trying to explore and also trying to understand: White people’s skill of creating an image of oneself that doesn’t exist. I will take one example not related to race. I knew a women who calls herself ‘animal protector’. Yes, she also did some positive things in terms of protection, but also many negative and there is no other term to describe her: She is an animal hoarder. She collects animals, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, some of these animals live in the dark cellar, others are locked up in rooms up-stairs and when you enter the house, you enter a mess. Once there was a dying dog lying in the middle of about 15 other dogs, many of her cats suffer from asthma due to the high amount of ammoniac.
But because she created for herself the identity of being an animal protector she is completely blind to the pain she causes to the animals. There is no chance to open her eyes, I have tried it for many years, there is also no chance to interfere with law enforcement, because she is an “animal-protector” and other pro-animal organizations support her. They warn her when higher institutions protecting animal rights will come for control so she can hide a large number of pets etc.

But she is not blind towards other animal horders. When she gets knowledge about an animal hording case, she calls police or more powerful animal protecting organizations.
It is as if there are two different persons in one body, in the case of the woman it becomes visible to all who know her, in the case of white anti-racism the schizophrenic soul of the white mind is not always so visible.

There are some anti-racist blogs on internet, owned by whites, where the discrepancy of being and appearing to be becomes visible how such whites handle their comment sections. Their comment sections remain clearly white/racist, regardless what the owners try to claim they are. Blogs become ways of self-promotion, blogs become ways to criticize racism while at the same time these owners are not able to create a racism-free blog (comment section).
Some owners are then in addition not willing or able to challenge the racism in the comment section but relay more or less on their readers to do their job.
The problem of such blogs is that these white owners can privilege themselves in many ways. They can decide which comments are censored and not, and in all cases I know so far those who challenge the racism on such an alleged anti-racist blog are the ones who are finally discouraged by certain actions of the blog-owners. [Warnings, censorship or openly discrediting those who challenge the racism but remaining silent when those who challenge problematic comments are insulted etc.)

These blog-owners cannot be challenged because they won’t publish too critical comments that could show to others their bigotry. They can continue with self-promotion and also distancing from “those racists”, while at the same time their blog is a racist place, supported how the white owners handle the comment section.
Cyber racism finds its way into the comment sections of white anti-racist blogs as racism in real life finds its way into the organizations of anti-racists which are led by whites (and no surprise, in many cases led by white males). On blogs as well as in real life organizations this racism is mostly unchallenged, whites, who allegedly want ‘to change the world’ by ending white supremacy, but already unable to live what they preach. How do such whites think the ‘big change’ should be possible when they are already in such a small area like orgas or blogs still ‘too white’ to make a difference? They may be able to create an idealistic identity of themselves they actually believe they are, criticizing racism in others that they are unable to see in themselves.

October 22, 2009

Undercover to Discover Life as a Black Man in Germany

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 9:44 am


Günter Wallraff is Germany’s most famous investigative journalist. He’s made a name for himself by going undercover to reveal the hidden side of many social issues. In his new film, he disguises himself as a black person to explore racial discrimination in Germany. His approach, however, is drawing criticism.

German journalist Günter Wallraff has accomplished a lot in his career. He has revealed to the German public how so-called “guest workers,” immigrants from Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and other countries who came here in the 1950s and 60s and stayed, are discriminated against in this country, the questionable working methods of Bild, the country’s top-selling tabloid newspaper, and how call-center employees are exploited. His latest project also seems like a noble one. “I want to find out,” he says, “what it’s like to be black in Germany.”

The project involves both a book, “Aus der schönen neuen Welt” (“Out of the Beautiful New World”), and a film, “Schawarz auf Weiss” (“Black on White”), which will be released in theaters in Germany on Thursday. As part of the film, Wallraff has a makeup artist cover him in dark brown makeup, he wears brown contact lenses and he dons an afro wig. Then, using the alias Kwami Ogonno, he takes a trip across Germany. He goes to a soccer game in the eastern city of Cottbus, attends a city festival in Magdeburg, tries to secure a place to pitch a tent in campground in the Teutoburg Forest and takes his German shepherd to dog training in Cologne.

The film reveals the frightening degree of both blatant and latent racism in Germany. When he goes to festivals, people refuse to drink beer on the same bench. Landlords refuse to rent apartments to him. People seem to have no compunction about calling him the German word for “negro.” And hooligans in Eastern Germany even threaten him with physical violence.

Reception in the Black German Community

There’s just one odd thing about the movie: If Wallraff really wanted to find out what it’s like to live as a black in Germany, why didn’t he take the time to let any blacks living in Germany answer the question?

Wallraff’s modus operandi is to go undercover and film it to help show and tell what he experiences. He became famous for his 1977 film in which he infiltrated Bild under the alias of Hans Esser. Six years later, he disguised himself as the Turkish guest worker Ali Levent. But is this method appropriate for his new subject matter?

Black Germans are on the fence about the film. “We find the mindset behind Mr. Wallraff’s film very problematic,” says Tahir Della, a spokeswoman from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD). “As is so often the case, someone is speaking for rather than with us.” Noah Sow, an educator and musician associated with the media watchdog organization Der braune Mob (The Brown Mob), even goes so far as to accuse Wallraff of “making money from our suffering” regardless of whether he “really intends to combat (racism) or not.”

There’s something odd about how Wallraff handles the issues of racism in his movie and book as compared with how he handles his other journalistic excursions. For example, in the book’s chapter on homelessness, his conversations with several homeless people — including Manfred, the software entrepreneurs, Walter, the truck driver, and Timo, the high school dropout — take up several pages. But you’d be hard-pressed to find the transcript of a conversation with anyone black.

Granted, in one episode in the film, Wallraff gathers stories about blacks who have been discriminated against in various German administrative offices. And then he dons his disguise to see what it’s like for himself. Accompanied by Avad, a black German, he tries to sign up to take the exam to get a hunting license. But the bureaucrats react aggressively to his request and refuse to provide him with information about the test. Avad doesn’t say a word, though, and he is never asked what it’s like when public servants refused to help him land a job. In the end, Wallraff pushes him out of the picture, too.

The main criticism levied against Wallraff’s film is that it fails to portray the debate about racism against blacks in Germany as being as advanced as it really is. For example, Della criticizes the film for “making absolutely no mention” of how much blacks in Germany have organized themselves. “We’re happy that racism is discussed,” she says, “but black groups have been doing the same thing for over 25 years.”

Sow* has a similar criticism. “Wherever you look,” [s]he says, “whether it’s in academia, publishing or the annual reports of anti-discrimination offices, knowledge about everyday racism is present — and accessible with the click of a mouse.” [S]he adds that: “Whites just have to stop ignoring and doubting these findings.” As [s]he sees it, the only reason Wallraff succeeds in drawing attention to the plight of Kwami Ogonno is that he is “privileged in the racist system (over) research results, publications and testimonials produced by blacks.”

The stories of black Germans have been portrayed in films, books and songs for many years. In 2006, the documentary “Black Deutschland” was released, which featured leading black Germans in the artistic community speaking about how blacks are perceived by themselves and others. In 2007, the black German actress, television host and film director Mo Asumang released “Roots Germania,” a film about her search for her family’s roots. And, in 2009, black German rapper Samy Deluxe released an album and book entitled “Dis wo ich herkomm” (“That’s Where I’m From”), both of which present a controversial examination of his relationship with Germany, his native country.

In response to such criticisms, however, Wallruff complains that “unfortunately, too few people either watch or read” these works. “It’d be much better,” he adds, “if they enjoyed a wider audience.”

What Is True in True-to-life?

While conducting research for his film, Wallraff even contacted the ISD to obtain reports about the experiences of blacks in Germany. He also consulted with Mouctar Bah, a prominent black human rights activist in Germany. But neither Bah nor any other blacks are interviewed as part of the film’s on-screen action.

“That would have made it another film,” Wallraff told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “As is the case in all of my roles, its about experiencing a situation at the gut level.” He also believes that it was completely appropriate to use is undercover method when treating this issue as well. “My approach makes everyday racism comprehensible for Germans,” he says — meaning, of course, white Germans.

When he played a Turkish guest worker living in Germany 25 years ago, Wallraff gave both a voice and a face to a segment of society that, at the time, was hardly represented in the German media at all. In 2009, as can be seen with the examples of Mo Asumang, Samy Deluxe and many others, black Germans have firmly established a presence in the public eye. But Wallraff pointedly chose not to place his Kwami character in the professional world. “With my Ali character, I wanted to expose discrimination in the world of work,” Wallraff says. “But, with Kwami, I purposefully chose a character that could help people primarily see the kind of racist things that happen in everyday life.”

A Failure to Make Subtle Differentiations

One of the things that Wallraff makes clear in his film is how the lines between race and class discrimination become blurred. For example, when he goes about as Kwami Ogonno wearing no jacket, carrying only a plastic bag and speaking broken German, he is usually treated like anyone else who is economically marginalized. But when he dresses stylishly and speaks German without an accent when visiting an expensive watch store in Düsseldorf, he is treated with the utmost courtesy.

When he delivered his speech on racism in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama touched upon this issue of how race and class conflicts often get tangled up together. He spoke about “the resentments of white Americans” who feel threatened by gains made by blacks in American society. He went on to say that “to label (white Americans) as misguided or even racist without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns (also) widens the racial divide and blocks the path to understanding.” In the end, he concludes that they would both benefit more by fighting together for more opportunities.

In his film and book, however, Wallraff fails to reach this sort of subtle differentiation. In the film, he particularly complains that, as a black man, he is “always defined exclusively based on the color of his skin.” “When you’re black,” he says in one of the film’s few moments of commentary, “people don’t focus on or even recognize what really makes you a person.”

Still, he also seems to commit this same fault of over-simplification in his film. “In my role, I usually just made do without any personal history,” he says. “I was simply just ‘the other,’ ‘the black other.'”

* Noah Sow is a woman therefore I edited the parts where Der Spiegel refers to her as “he”

October 21, 2009

Collective Degradation

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 10:09 pm

by James H. Sweet

Collective Degradation:
Slavery and the Construction of Race
Spanish and Portuguese Influences on Racial Slavery in British North America, 1492-1619

“At the end of the medieval period, slavery was not widespread in Europe. In fact, it was mostly isolated to the southern fringes of the Mediterranean, especially along the frontiers of Christendom. In those places where it existed, the physical labor of slavery was the preserve of social and religious “others.” Iberian Christians enslaved primarily Muslims, but also Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and so on. As “infidels,” Jews and Moors were considered incapable of redemption and therefore doomed to marginal, enslaveable status. When the Atlantic slave trade began in 1441, most Africans were placed into an entirely new and different category of enslaveable peoples.”
“The policies and ideas that flowed from these understandings of African inferiority only served to crystallize racial hierarchies, not only in Iberia, but across Europe. The first transnational, institutional endorsement of African slavery occurred in 1452 when Pope Nicholas V issued the bull, Dum Diversas, which granted King Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce to “perpetual slavery” all “Saracens and pagans and other infidels and enemies of Christ” in West Africa. In 1454, the Pope followed up Dum Diversas with Romanus Pontifex, which granted Portugal the more specific right to conquer and enslave all peoples south of Cape Bojador.5 Taken together, these papal bulls did far more than grant exclusive rights to the Portuguese; they signaled to the rest of Christian Europe that the enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans was acceptable and encouraged.”
“By homogenizing all non-Christians south of Cape Bojador, the Catholic Church also endorsed the idea that there was a certain oneness to sub-Saharan Africa, a oneness based not only on religious difference, but also on culture and race. The conflation of
cultural difference and race quickly found its way into the Portuguese language. Though legally in the same category of enslaved “infidels,” Islamic Africans were distinguished from “white” Moors by the term “Negro.” The term “mouro Negro” implied a double “othering.” As noted earlier, Moors were enslaveable due to their religious infidelity, but race was an aggravating factor that apparently made them even more enslaveable.
By the second half of the fifteenth century, the term “Negro” was essentially synonymous with “slave” across the Iberian Peninsula.”
“Europeans continued to solidify a common identity vis-à-vis “Negroes” across the Atlantic world, especially by the seventeenth century. In practical terms, the English, and especially the Dutch, whittled away at Iberian supremacy on the open seas, including in the African slave trade. From an ideological perspective, northern Europeans continued to draw from the Iberian example in their perceptions of blackness. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen in the terms used to describe black people. Instead of using the term “black” to describe Africans, the English, the Dutch, and the French relied on variations of the Spanish “Negro.” There were suitable terms for “black” in all of these languages, yet northern Europeans adopted variations of “Negro” by the mid-sixteenth century. The only reasonable explanation for the adoption of the word “Negro” is that it conveyed a concept or a meaning that was absent from the languages of northern Europe. In short, there was not another word in these languages that could capture both “blackness” and servile status. Just as was the case with the Spanish and the Portuguese, northern Europeans recognized that “Negro” was synonymous with “slave,” or at least, “enslaveable” status.”
“If Africans were widely understood to be members of an enslaveable Negro “nation,” then “Europe” must have been the normative political community against which these non-Christian, uncivilized, blacks were measured. While I would hesitate to impute conscious motive on the formation of a “European” or “white” identity during this period, it is clear that the bundle of norms associated with European “civilization” was what separated Europeans from Africans, at least in the European mind. Some might argue that these group distinctions were based on nothing more than cultural difference; however, this logic simply displaces race onto group difference. In practice, group differences between “Negroes” and “Europeans” were always marked by racial differences, as social and cultural realities were literally “read” onto black and white bodies.”

October 16, 2009

Bill to Eliminate Sentencing Disparity

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 7:35 pm


Durbin Introduces Bill to Eliminate Sentencing Disparity Between Crack and Powder Cocaine

Thursday, October 15, 2009

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), joined by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Crime and Drugs Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter (D-PA), and seven other Senators, introduced legislation today to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. His bill, the Fair Sentencing Act, would refocus scarce federal resources toward large scale, violent traffickers and increase penalties for the worst drug offenders. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, restoring sentencing parity would do more than any other policy change to close the gap in incarceration rates between African Americans and whites. The Obama Administration endorsed eliminating the sentencing disparity at a hearing chaired by Durbin in April.

“Drug use is a serious problem in America and we need tough legislation to combat it. But in addition to being tough, our drug laws must be smart and fair. Our current cocaine laws are not,” Durbin said. “The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of whites and to the United States’ position as the world’s leader in incarcerations. Congress has talked about addressing this injustice for long enough; it’s time for us to act.”

Under current law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine (roughly the weight of two sugar cubes) triggers a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, while trafficking 500 grams (approximately one pound) of powder cocaine triggers the same sentence. The so-called 100:1 sentencing disparity has been in place since 1986. The Fair Sentencing Act would eliminate the disparity, treating crack and powder cocaine equally.

“Today, the criminal justice system has unfair and biased cocaine penalties that undermine the Constitution’s promise of equal treatment for all Americans. To have faith in our system Americans must have confidence that the laws of this country, including our drug laws, are fair and administered fairly,” Chairman Leahy said. “I believe the Fair Sentencing Act will move us one step closer to reaching that goal. I commend Senator Durbin for his leadership in fixing this decades-old injustice. We should do what we can to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system. Correcting biases in our criminal sentencing laws is a step in that direction.”

The dramatically higher penalties for crack have disproportionately affected the African American community. While only 25 percent of crack users are African American, they constituted 81 percent of those convicted for crack offenses in 2007. The current drug sentencing policy is also the single greatest cause of the record levels of incarceration in our country. One in every thirty-one Americans is in prison, on parole, or on probation, including one in eleven African-Americans. Over 50% of current federal inmates are imprisoned for drug crimes.

“This legislation offers reasonable and much-needed reform in crack cocaine sentencing under federal law,” Senator Specter said. “Eliminating the unfair and unwarranted sentencing disparity between crack offenses and cocaine offenses is long overdue and represents an important step in addressing our drug laws’ discriminatory consequences.”

The current law was a response to the explosion in crack use around the country in the 1980’s. At the time, crack was believed to be more harmful, and its users far more violent, than powder cocaine users. However, current research has shown that there is little difference between the physiological impact of crack and powder cocaine. The research has also shown that crack is not linked to significantly more violence than powder cocaine. Today, only ten percent of crack cocaine cases involve violence.

The Fair Sentencing Act will:

Eliminate the sentencing disparity by instituting a 1:1 ratio for crack and powder sentencing.
Increase the quantity of crack cocaine needed to trigger a mandatory sentence. Under this new law, possession of 500 grams of crack and 500 grams of powder cocaine would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. Similarly, 5,000 grams of crack or powder would trigger a 10-year sentence.
Direct federal resources toward large-scale drug trafficking cases and violent offenders by increasing the number of aggravating factors subject to higher penalties.
A broad coalition of legal, law enforcement, civil rights, and religious groups from across the political spectrum supports eliminating the crack-powder disparity, including Attorney General Holder, Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton, Miami Police Chief John Timoney, the American Bar Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Black Police Association, and the United Methodist Church.

In addition to Senators Leahy and Specter, the bill is cosponsored by Judiciary Committee Members Feingold (D-WI), Cardin (D-MD), Whitehouse (D-RI), Kaufman (D-DE), and Franken (D-MN). Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Dodd (D-CT) are also original cosponsors.

October 13, 2009

Alternative Nobel

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 11:24 am


STOCKHOLM – Two activists from Congo and New Zealand and a doctor from Australia on Tuesday won the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “alternative Nobel,” for work to protect rain forests, improve women’s health and rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Congolese activist Rene Ngongo, Alyn Ware of New Zealand and Australian-born Catherine Hamlin, who has been based in Ethiopia for five decades, each will receive euro50,000 (US$74,000), the Right Livelihood Foundation said.

The honorary part of the award — without prize money — went to Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, 73, for raising awareness of climate change.

Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull founded the awards in 1980 to recognize work he felt was being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

The foundation said Ngongo, 48, was honored “for his courage in confronting the forces that are destroying Congo’s rain forests.”

Ngongo founded the OCEAN environmental group in 1994, exposing the impact of deforestation and monitoring the plunder of minerals by warring factions during Congo’s 1996-2002 civil wars. He also has been working for Greenpeace in Congo.

Ngongo told The Associated Press by telephone from Kinshasa that the award came at a “great time,” as negotiators prepare to meet in Copenhagen in December to try to draft a global climate pact.

The Right Livelihood Award “is a clear message that the campaign we started in is starting to be heard around the world,” Ngongo said. “It’s important to save our forests.”

Ware, a peace activist from New Zealand, was recognized for “initiatives over two decades to further peace education and to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

The citation said the 47-year-old Ware has campaigned against nuclear weapons at the U.N. and through a network of lawmakers worldwide that he established in 2002.

Nuclear nonproliferation also was a key theme when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to President Barack Obama, citing in part his vision of a world free of atomic weapons.

Asked to compare the awards, Ole von Uexkull, the Right Livelihood Foundation’s executive director and nephew of the prize founder, noted that Ware had actively campaigned against nuclear weapons for 25 years, while Obama had yet to translate words into action.

“We have a window of opportunity with Obama opening up to the possibility of nuclear disarmament,” Ole von Uexkull said. “He will have the opportunity to take concrete steps now and I hope that he will do it.”

Hamlin, 85, moved to Ethiopia from Australia in 1959 to work as an obstetrician and gynecologist. Hamlin and her late husband founded a hospital where women can seek free treatment for obstetric fistulas, which are holes that develop between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum that can develop during long and difficult births.

They are common in Africa and other developing countries where prenatal care is limited.

Women with fistula experience incontinence and often give birth to a stillborn baby. Untreated, fistula can also lead to chronic medical problems, including ulcerations, kidney disease and nerve damage in the legs.

The Right Livelihood Foundation said the winners “demonstrate concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalized.”

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on Dec. 4, six days before the Nobel Prizes are handed out.

October 7, 2009

Juvenile life-without-parole

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 4:14 pm

Link to article

Despite its liberal reputation, Massachusetts has one of the harshest laws in the country for sentencing murderers as young as 14 to life in prison without parole, and many of the 57 people serving such mandatory sentences are first-time offenders, according to an advocacy group that wants them to become eligible for parole.

The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, in what it said was the first comprehensive study of the 1996 law that resulted in such sentences for first-degree murder, found that a disproportionate percentage of the children locked up for the rest of their lives are black. Many of the offenders were convicted with adult codefendants, some of whom got milder sentences and have been freed.

The report, which is scheduled to be released today, followed a two-year review of most of the cases in which children ages 14, 15, and 16 were tried in adult court and sentenced to life. The study says that penalties for juvenile murderers were inadequate in the 1980s but that the Legislature went too far when it passed the current law in response to what the center describes as overblown fears of young super predators.

The group wants Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature to change the law to at least make juveniles convicted of first-degree murder eligible for parole after 15 years, as is true for people convicted of second-degree murder.

“Life-without-parole sentences may be an appropriate response to some adult crimes, especially in a state like Massachusetts that does not impose the death penalty,’’ the 33-page report said. “But the current law treats youths as young as 14 exactly like adults, regardless of their age, past conduct, level of participation in the crime, personal background, and potential for rehabilitation.’’

Geline W. Williams, executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said yesterday she could not comment on the report until she reads it. But, “There’s no question that there are some juveniles who commit absolutely horrific crimes and have absolutely horrific records before they commit the ultimate crime of murder,’’ she said.

The two state lawmakers who chair the joint Committee on the Judiciary, Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty and Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, said they were willing to reexamine the 1996 law.

O’Flaherty said a few notorious crimes can often result in “legislative overreaction, and usually it takes a few years to see the unforeseen consequences of getting too tough, too quickly, and not being smart about getting tough.’’

Massachusetts is one of at least 39 states with youths serving sentences of life without parole; about 2,500 inmates around the country serve such sentences. But only Massachusetts and Connecticut give adult courts exclusive jurisdiction over murder cases against children as young as 14 and then impose a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for all first-degree murder convictions, regardless of the circumstances, the report said.

Several states are considering changing their laws to give youth offenders an opportunity to earn parole, in part because scientific research into the difference between the adolescent and adult brain shows that teenagers often cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions.

Last year, after citing similar neuroscientific evidence, Human Rights Watch called sentences of life without parole for juveniles “cruel, unfair, and unnecessary.’’

[follow the link above to read the entire article]

Link to the entire report
Until They Die A Natural Death

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