Monday, October 15, 2012

Sterilising our killers, not killing our kids

WASHINGTON  - A Texas judge has sentenced a mother who superglued her toddler's hands to a wall to 99 years in prison, local media reported.

                                                                                     Elizabeth Escalona

During the September 2011 assault on her two-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Escalona also beat the girl into a coma, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The 23-year-old mother of five had pleaded guilty in July to felony injury to a child.
"I hit her, I kicked her constantly, and she didn't deserve that," the newspaper's crime blog quoted Escalona as saying in court last week. "Only a monster does that."
Crimes of this nature are all to common fortunately this case didn't end up with a child dead. What is interesting is the sentence, David Garrett in a thoughtful guest post at Kiwiblog discusses the child abuse punishment options from a New Zealand perspective. with specific reference to Nia Glassie this from the NZ Herald.
" She was in hospital, on a ventilator. Her brain injury, left untreated for 36 hours, was so severe parts of her brain tissue had died.
Another child tells how they spun Nia on the clothesline as fast as they could. Her voice is soft and shy.
They put her into the drier, too, she says.
The drier is in court. A Simpson with a small round door, 28cm in diameter."... 
Who did this, a kindly woman asks the girl, about the drier.
Wiremu and Michael Curtis, she says. But it was Michael Pearson's idea.
She said to Michael Pearson, don't do it.
Why did you say this, asks the woman.
Because she's just a little kid, says the girl.
Michael Pearson told her to shut up.
We listen in appalled silence.
The defendants don't look appalled. Perhaps they're bored. Though, sometimes in court they laughed and whispered and often they tried to stare down the reporters covering the trial.
It was hard to read the stares, but certainly there was challenge in those largely blank eyes; even in court it seemed they were making lame attempts to be menacing.
That was until they listened to each other's statements as told to police when it happened, when they were all so quick to blame each other.
Then their body language changed dramatically and the main offenders, the Curtis brothers, had to be separated by guards."

                     Micheal Pearson, Lisa Kuka, Oriwa Kemp and Micheal and Wiremu Curtis

The Curtis brothers got life with a 17.5 year non parole period. Pearson just three years and was out in 14 months although he is thankfully and predictably back inside again Lisa Kuku Nia's mother got just 9 years and is eligible for parole. Oriwa Kemp a mere 3 years 4 months and is already out. This from NZ Herald last week. 

One of the women convicted of abusing little Nia Glassie is pregnant and expecting to give birth before Christmas.
Four years ago, Oriwa Kemp was convicted of assaulting the 3-year-old. Kemp was released from prison in 2009, and the 21-year-old is now believed to live a transient lifestyle between Morrinsville, Auckland and Northland.
A female juror who deliberated on the Glassie murder trial wants the baby removed at birth and Kemp to undergo sterilisation.
She is on Facebook here 

 DPF comments on Garret's post.
" My instinct is to execute, not sterilise, all those involved. But more rationally I can’t bring myself to support compulsory sterilisation (or execution)  - even for those who deserve it. I just can’t defend the precedent it creates in terms of power of the state."
I agree with DPF's instinct. But the real question is if we can't prevent child abuse on this scale should the state have greater powers ? The judge in Texas  had a 99 sentence year option and 30 year minimum parole.  Escalona is not getting out until she is at least 53 thus sterilisation is not really an issue but it is also a total waste of Escalona's life, how about a voluntary sterilisation option and allowing her out after 15 years should she take it. She would be 38 and still be young enough to actually have a life. For the record I think her sentence is to harsh.

Oriwa Kemp is a time bomb. her ludicrously light sentence and therefor increased risk to society is now compounded by a pregnancy. What about a 12 year sentence with an 8 year non parole period reduced to 3 years if she was voluntarily sterilised ? I see no reason that the sterilisation procedure could not be reversed with the courts consent should she sort out her life and cease offending.  

According to the blog, the abuse -- which resulted in bleeding of the girl's brain -- appeared to be over potty training.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Larry Mitchell said Escalona needed to be punished for savagely beating her child "to the edge of death."
The daughter survived and, according to testimony referenced by the blog, is doing well.
The Los Angeles Times website quoted Debbie Denmon, spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney's office, as saying Escalona "wasn't sorry for what she did. She was sorry for herself, not the child she tortured."
How often have we thought that ?
Escalona will have to serve 30 years before she becomes eligible for parole, Denmon told The Times.
David Garrett has been demonised in New Zealand with some justification at the time. (If you feel the urge to abuse him please don't do it here ). He is also associated with the lock them up and throw away the key brigade which I think is unfair. The reality is we are killing our kids and it has to stop. Giving greater flexibility in sentencing and the serving of the sentence strikes me as not a bad option and when Garrett talks on this issue it is worth listening. Go to Kiwiblog ( link above ) and have a read.

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