- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Juvenile court system strikes proper balance

I read with concern the recent Commentary column by Shay Bilchik (“Wiser ways on youth crime,” Dec. 16) urging reform of the so-called “get tough” policies of America’s juvenile codes, including curtailing the ability of states to transfer juveniles to adult court for prosecution. Mr. Bilchik’s column was based upon some misleading facts and examples, and it reaches a misguided conclusion. America’s juvenile justice system is not broken or in need of reform.

The changes made to most states’ juvenile codes in the 1990s were not overly harsh on juvenile offenders. Rather, those laws strike a proper balance in protecting public safety, holding youths appropriately accountable for their crimes and rehabilitating youthful offenders. Contrary to the implications in Mr. Bilchik’s article, the vast majority of youthful offenders in America are prosecuted in juvenile court. Few jurisdictions in our country prosecute more than 1 percent or 2 percent of juvenile offenders as adults, and in some jurisdictions, this statistic is even lower. Also, few prosecutors in America would ever seek to charge as an adult a youth who merely sold marijuana, which was the misleading centerpiece example Mr. Bilchik used.

Some exceptions exist, such as the highly praised program in Jacksonville, Fla., in which many youths charged with lower-level felonies are prosecuted in adult court. Those youths, however, receive sentences to a segregated youth-only section of the county jail where the primary focus of their incarceration is on education and rehabilitation. This “adult court prosecution” may well be the best thing that ever happens to these troubled children. Since this program was implemented, juvenile crime in the Jacksonville area has dropped significantly.

One of the primary fallacies of statistics misused by Mr. Bilchik and others to suggest that too many juveniles are prosecuted as adults in America is that these statistics are based upon using 18 as the age of criminal majority. This is not the reality in all states.

In fact, 13 states have a lower age of majority for purposes of criminal prosecution, and yet in computing the statistics as to the number of “juveniles” prosecuted as adults, 16- or 17-year-old youths in those states, who are adults under the law, are treated as if they were juveniles transferred to the adult system.

That is why the statistic claiming that 200,000 or more “juveniles” are prosecuted as adults each year in America for minor crimes is meaningless unless the age-of-majority issue is properly factored into such an analysis.

JAMES C. BACKSTROM

Dakota County attorney

Hastings, Minn.

Co-chairman

Juvenile Justice Committee

National District Attorneys Association

Campus ‘moderates’ misleading

Friday’s editorial “The herd of independent minds” ends thus: “But are political outlooks so different? After five decades of conservatives decrying campus left-liberalism, a lefty professor may simply find life easier when he calls himself ‘moderate.’ ”

It may be that the lefty professor finds himself moderate because of a comparison with other faculty further to the left, and so feels he is moderate. This is sort of like the media saying they are in the center because everyone they know thinks the same way.

RICH EGAN

Pequannock, N.J.

DDTfoes disregard human life

Environmentalist opposition to DDT (“Asinine activism” Commentary, Dec. 30) has never had any basis in science. For half a century, DDT use has been proved safe to humans and deadly to mosquitoes. The use of DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes could prevent the infection of hundreds of millions of people every year and save millions of lives. The fact that environmentalist activists have opposed — and still oppose — the use of DDT indicates that they have little, if any, concern for human life.

DAVID HOLCBERG

Ayn Rand Institute

Irvine, Calif.

IRSand the AMT

The Internal Revenue Service said more than 3 million people will have to wait until February to get their tax refunds because of Congress’ late fix to the alternative minimum tax (“Don’t blame us,” Inside Politics, Nation, Monday). Well, theIRS requires that taxpayers who can’t pay their required taxes by the end of the year begin paying estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.

In turn, because the IRS can’t seem to pay us taxpayers our required tax refunds on time, why shouldn’t the IRS be required to begin paying us estimated tax refunds on a quarterly basis?

I wouldn’t recommend any budgeting with this in mind.

ARMOND SIMMONS

Pell City, Ala.

The Iowa results

In her bittersweet speech Thursday night after Sen. Barack Obama soundly defeated her well-oiled campaign machine in the Iowa presidential caucuses, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton resorted to aping Mr. Obama by stressing the change she would bring about for the country (“Huckabee, Obama win in Iowa,” Page 1, Friday).

Such an avowal would have been much more credible had it not been for the supporters she selected to surround her as she spoke. Opting to include cohorts such asher husband, former President Bill Clinton, and his secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright, to stand by her side only served as an indelible reminder of the Clintonian days in the White House — during the bygone era of the 1990s — and in no way forebodes the “new beginning” in Washington that Mrs. Clinton promised if elected president.

BILL SMITH

Indian Wells, Calif.

When it comes to being interesting, the Republicans won the Iowa race. The Democrats ended in a virtual three-way tie. However, the Republicans gave a decisive victory to Mike Huckabee, who won by a relative landslide.

When you consider that he won with no money, the real victory is even bigger. Why did Mr. Huckabee win? I think he won because he’s the one Republican who isn’t hateful. I think Republicans are tired of the same old angry, divisive candidates and want to vote for someone who is a nice guy. Ultimately, I doubt that Mr. Huckabee will win. Nevertheless, he definitely is the most interesting candidate on the Republican side.

MARC PERKEL

San Bruno, Calif.

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