It’s been a bad week or two recently, particularly in
Washington. The Secret Service utterly disgraced
themselves and the country with their behavior in Columbia while accompanying and supposedly
protecting the President. U. S.
troops in a war zone were shown posing with body parts. The GSA which is the government agency that
is supposed to effectively manage government operations was shown to be out of
control, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a conference that was a
total waste of money.
So it was with some trepidation that we approached Washington Post’s usually inane and irrelevant and misleading columnist George Will and his commentary on whether or not sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without possibility of parole was cruel and unusual punishment. The expectation was that Mr. Will would not only endorse the policy, but want to bring back the death penalty for young teens.
So imagine everyone’s surprise when Mr. Will came out on the side that such a practice was likely to be a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Denying juveniles even a chance for parole defeats the penal objective of rehabilitation. It deprives prisoners of the incentive to reform themselves. Some prisons withhold education, counseling and other rehabilitation programs from prisoners ineligible for parole. Denying these to adolescents in a period of life crucial to social and psychological growth stunts what the court in 2005 called the prisoner’s “potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.” Which seems, in a word — actually, three words — “cruel and unusual.”
Wow, that was unexpected. But it is highly welcomed in a week that otherwise is best forgotten, a week no one hopes to see again.