Opinion: Misery

POSTED: 09/27/13 3:14 PM

Again we are confronted with a situation in the criminal justice system that is screaming for a different solution. The case at hand is about a 17-year-old boy who is charged with a couple of burglaries, ill-treatment and firearm possession.

But this story is not about the alleged crimes. It is about the circumstances, about the hand life dealt to this teenager, and about the way the system deals with it.

We learned in court yesterday that the boy’s mother has left for Haiti. He has no contacts with her. Not even a phone call every now and then.

The boy’s brother and his stepfather live in St. Maarten. They have not visited him once while he was in pretrial detention. The brother has made it clear that he wants to have nothing to do with his sibling. Based on results, the stepfather does not give a rat’s behind either.

The result is that the boy spends his time behind bar without ever seeing somebody from the outside. No visitors, no contacts – nothing, nada.

From such a background, a society should not be surprised that a boy this age that is forced into such a vulnerable position, ends up doing things that he should not do.

In the courtroom yesterday morning, the lanky teenager was outwardly calm. But when he went downstairs with his attorney and his guards, he broke down and started screaming.

Yeah, we got that. This is pure frustration and anger against a world that has abandoned him. So we stand around and wonder: what now?

Is it fair to leave someone so young behind bars under these conditions? Is there nobody in the system that cares enough to come up with an out-of-the-box solution? Should we shrug it off and turn our backs on this boy? Let him rot in a prison cell because he is no good anyway?

Or is there someone out there with a heart, someone who will not let this teenager drown in his own misery. The way we deal with our prisoners – and this boy does not even have that status yet, he is in pretrial detention – defines who we are as a country. As things stand right now, we are not looking good. Not looking good at all.

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