CA Fights to Keep Adult Labeled Psycopathic Killer in Juvenile Custody
Prosecutors say Donald Schmidt is a psychopath. Maybe he is. They say he has serious difficulty controlling his dangerous behavior. That might be true, although he's been in custody for more than 20 years and has therefore had no opportunity to demonstrate volitional control in an unconfined setting. During that time, according to his public defender, Schmidt has earned a high school diploma, has served as a grief counselor, and has excelled in treatment.
Putting aside the ongoing debate over the wisdom of detaining people in what amounts to a correctional setting out of fear that they might cause harm if given their freedom, Schmidt's continuing detention by the State of California is particularly appalling because, at the age of 37, he is being held in juvenile custody.
Schmidt is detained at the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino. Convicted in juvenile court of a sexual assault and murder, Schmidt should have been released when he turned 25, the maximum age of detention for juvenile offenders under California law. Using a juvenile version of a civil commitment/sexual predator law, however, the State has successfully argued that Schmidt is too dangerous to release.
And so this dangerous adult is kept in the company of children. How smart is that? Good work, California.
The reality of Schmidt's situation is clear. State authorities are displeased that Schmidt wasn't tried as an adult and given a life sentence, so they hope to circumvent the maximum detention period that applies to juvenile offenses by arguing that Schmidt is just too dangerous to release. Again, putting aside the wisdom of commitment laws that effectively continue the punishment of incarceration long after the original sentence has been served, it is insane for California to keep a middle-aged adult locked up in a juvenile facility. Fortunately for the kids with whom he is detained, Schmidt seems to be a reasonably good role model. If he really is the remorseless, uncontrolled psychopath authorities claim him to be, however, why are they fighting to keep him detained in a juvenile facility? Is that really where he belongs?
California has a dismal history of administering juvenile corrections. Schmidt's case is the latest example of a system that is beyond broken. Is it asking too much for a bit of common sense to govern California's approach to juvenile justice?
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