Why Weren’t the Laws Concerning Minors Followed in the Duggar Case?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tori Rector https://www.flickr.com/photos/124387535@N03/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tori Rector https://www.flickr.com/photos/124387535@N03/

I haven’t paid much attention to the case of Josh Duggar.

I never watched the cable reality show that brought his family to fame. I am neither a fan nor a hater of this family. They just aren’t on my radar.

When Josh Duggar’s juvenile records were revealed, my mind was elsewhere. I was vaguely aware that the situation surrounding Mr Duggar had developed into another round of the culture wars, but nothing more.

Then, I realized that, based on what I’d read, Mr Duggar did not receive the legal protection that he was entitled to as a minor offender. That made the situation interesting to me.

Here’s what little I know.

Josh Duggar, who is a member of a large family that has a successful reality tv show, evidently engaged in some sort of sexual touching of young females when he was 14 years old. His father subsequently filed a report with the police about this behavior. There is no reported history of repeat offense.

Josh Duggar is now an adult. He is married and has children of his own. The police report from his past has surfaced. This police report has become a means of attacking the philosophy and religion of his family. This has led to a media feeding frenzy.

My questions about this do not concern the treatment Mr Duggar is receiving from the media. I am wondering why, since he was a minor at the time these things occurred, his records were made public in the first place.

There is a reason for sealing the judicial and criminal records of minors. That reason is simply that minors can and often do commit criminal acts and then never do it again. Adolescent offenders are actually likely to go on to lead productive lives.

I personally know people who committed crimes when they were minors and who have lived long productive lives as successful members of the community. I grew up with these people. Their actions as youthful offenders in no way represents who they are now. They, quite literally, grew out of their violent adolescence and went on to live productive and respectable lives.

Our juvenile justice system is based in part on the understanding that minors, in particular adolescents, have an enormous capacity for positive growth. They are in fact and in truth, children. Their ways are not fixed. With proper intervention and with love, they can and they often do, change entirely.

That is why we do not put minors in adult prisons and do not, with a few exceptions for specific violent crimes, try them as adults. It is also why we seal their records.

The reasoning behind sealing the records of adolescents who commit crimes or who have various problems is that adolescents are not fully formed adults. They are not culpable for their actions in the same way that an adult would be. They also have a much greater potential for successful and life-long reform than an adult would have.

Sealing an adolescents’ records is a way of giving them a second chance. When they grow up to be productive adults who do not repeat the behaviors that got them into trouble, it is considered that they have demonstrated successful reform. Sealing their records, or even expunging their records, is a way our legal system has of giving minors a second chance at life.

My question in the Duggar situation is why wasn’t this done with his records?

I understand that he and his situation are being used as a weapon in the culture wars. I also understand that these culture wars are ruthless. Josh Duggar’s past is a tactical weapon. It will be used as a tactical weapon. The law does not enter into that.

However, the law still exists. Josh Duggar was a minor at the time of these offenses. So far as I know, there is no record of a repeat offense. Why was the law not applied to Josh Duggar as it is to other juvenile offenders?

His records should have been sealed. In fact, they probably should have been expunged.

Culture wars aside, the legal protections that are available to minor offenders were, for some reason, denied Josh Duggar.

There are a lot of other questions I could ask about this, but I’m not so sure they’re pertinent. I honestly don’t want to know the details of what he did that got him into this situation. I also don’t care if his family’s television show stays on the air or not.

What concerns me is that he was himself a minor child when these events took place and his rights as a minor offender were, for reasons unknown, denied him. As I said, there is a purpose for these laws, and it is a good purpose.

Contrary to prevailing perceptions, most adolescent offenders actually do grow out of their problems. A recent PBS documentary claimed that as high as 80% of youthful offenders never repeat their crimes. 

Actors Steven McQueen, Marc Wahlberg, Robert Mitchum and Merle Haggard are all entertainment industry examples of juvenile offenders who reformed. I’ve seen many adolescent offenders grow up and live productive lives.

The culture wars’ feeding frenzy notwithstanding, I have a question as to whether or not Mr Duggar’s legal rights as a minor offender were violated. So far as I know, we are dealing with a police report rather than a conviction, and this police report concerns the actions of a 14-year-old offender. If there are extenuating circumstances which required that his records not be sealed, I do not know about them.

This situation raises questions about youthful offenders and how they are treated generally. Most youthful offenders will not repeat their offenses. As Mr Duggar’s situation illustrates, youthful offenders who later become prominent citizens may in fact be facing a kind of social and cultural life sentence for their offenses if we do not seal their records.

Do we want to allow youthful offenders second chances, or do we want to treat them the same as we do adults?

That’s a question we need to consider. The situation with Josh Duggar illustrates just how serious it can become.

 

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!

Patheos Catholic LogoCLICK HERE TO "LIKE" PATHEOS CATHOLIC ON FACEBOOK

Letters from Prison to Pope Francis

Preach Christ. If necessary, use words. 

From Vatican Radio:

Letters from prison



(Vatican Radio) Los Angeles County has one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the country. Up to 90% of the county’s juvenile justice youth are Latino or African American, and up to 70% of incarcerated youth nationally are said to have some kind of disability.

After witnessing the tragic lives of so many young people facing life without parole in a juvenile justice system where little rehabilitation takes place and with frighteningly high recidivism rates that continue into adulthood, Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy decided to set up the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI) to provide support and hope to juveniles with life sentences.

Through the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a series of meditative prayers helping people find God in their everyday experiences, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative provides tools that allow prisoners to find healing and forgiveness and to recognize their lives have meaning and purpose.

When the young boys at the juvenile detention facility in LA heard of Pope Francis’ wish to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison with the young inmates there, many of them expressed their desire to participate from afar and in close solidarity to what the Pope was going to do in another juvenile hall.

To do this they have written letters to Pope Francis, thanking him for his gesture of love and service, praying for him – as he has asked all of us to do, describing the sadness of their lives in detention, and asking for prayers to help them endure the darkness and hopelessness of their situations… As father Kennedy points out, some of these youngsters will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

We welcome their voices and publish the letters that will be read at a service Thursday evening with the Director of Novices and 11 Jesuit novices, each one washing the feet of an inmate at the juvenile hall where kids are sentenced as adults.

Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy.
We also are young and made mistakes.
Society has given up on us, thank you
that you have not given up on us.

Dear Pope Francis,
I think you are a humble man.
When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like.
I am writing this letter because you give me hope.
I know one day with people like you us kids
won’t be given sentences that will keep us in prison
for the rest of our lives.
I pray for you. Dont forget us.

Dear Pope Francis,
I don’t know if you have ever been to where I live.
I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence.
I have seen people killed. I have been hurt.
We have been victims of violence.
It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness.
Pray for me that one day I will be free
and be able to help other youth like you do.

Dear Pope Francis,
Tonight we pray for all victims of violence.
The families of people we have hurt need healing.
Our families need healing.
We are all in pain.
Let us feel Jesus’ healing tonight.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know the same youth feet that you wash
are like me.
Drugs have been part of me life for so long.
We all struggle to be sober.
But you inspire me and I promise to be sober
and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.

Dear Pope Francis,
My many friends are in two different maximum security
prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons.Calif. I am writing to tell you that I feel bad
that more youth of color are in prison in our state
than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come
here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison.
God bless you.

Dear Pope Francis,
I read that the harshest sentence that a youth
can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here.
I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic
because I have a pope like you.
I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are
in this violent world.

Dear Pope Francis,
I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St.Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods.

Dear Pope Francis,
When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.

Dear Pope Francis,
I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles
because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one
day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you
and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know
that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we not a new law called SB9 this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.

Dear Pope Francis,
From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and
help other people understand we can change and want to change.

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!

Patheos Catholic LogoCLICK HERE TO "LIKE" PATHEOS CATHOLIC ON FACEBOOK