Questions Raised About Federal Juvenile Prosecution

by TChris

Federal court is no place for a kid. The Bureau of Prisons doesn't have a juvenile institution, and it has few resources to assist the rehabilitation of a juvenile offender. The federal system has little use for such resources because federal prosecutions of juveniles are relatively rare. In fact, the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act recognizes that accused juvenile offenders should generally be prosecuted by states, which typically have specialized juvenile courts and a host of rehabilitative services that are not readily available in the federal system.

Why, then, was a 14 year old boy in Maine prosecuted in federal court for setting fire to a boatyard? And why was he sentenced to 30 months in a maximum security juvenile prison in Pennsylvania (under contract wth the federal Bureau of Prisons) instead of keeping him close to home, as federal law requires?

The boy's family and lawyer think it's because former President Bush lost a boat engine in the fire. Whatever the reason, the boy is the only juvenile from New England (or from New York, Ohio or Pennsylvania) in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

An appellate court has ordered the judge who presided in the boy's case to give his sentence a second look. The First Circuit held that Judge George Singal did not adequately consider the "location and rehabilitative capabilities" of the Pennsylvania detention facility. The boy's family hopes that he can be placed in a facility closer to home where more counseling and educational opportunities will be available.

< Pickering on '60 Minutes' | Prison Rape >
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