Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The case of the Getaway Horse

Coming to the Juvenile Division has been quite an adjustment, and also a learning experience. There are quiet days and crazy days, and very very sad days. I haven't written much about what I do, I'm sort of petrified to violate any confidences, but I think it's time I let you in on a few tidbits.

The following two incidents (and I'll post more in the future) are intended to give you a flavor of the interesting times, maybe a taste of what it's like here generally.

Even the hardest criminals, in my experience, show respect to the judge. That's true here, too. Mostly. There's the kid (aged 14) who rolled his eyes while the judge was talking to him, slouched, and then when he was detained shouted, "F&*k you, ni#@er!" The judge, to his great credit, reacted by smiling at the young man and saying nothing.

Same day, different case: 15 year old selling dope at school, and when caught and searched his pocket revealed a pill I'd not heard of. When I Wikipediaed it, I learned it's been used to prevent thoroughbred horses "from bleeding through the nose during races." I can only assume he intended to feed the pill to his getaway horse before they fled into the sunset....


  1. Wowza. I imagine working in the Juvenile Division must be a very different experience than working with adults. I don't know that I could do it - I think I'd be sad.

  2. Jennifer - not sure there's any type of criminal work where you can avoid the "sad" factor. I often wonder whether working with juveniles would be much less sad than my current job. In working with people who have been convicted of capital crimes, there's often a sensation of it being "too late" (unless there's an issue in the case that might lead to release or a sentence less than LWOP, like actual innocence or facts supporting a manslaughter rather than murder conviction). Otherwise, if the options on the table during appeal or habeas are death or LWOP...there's a sense in which it's over. You're working with people who've effectively taken themselves out of society, rendered themselves "nonviable" in society (as someone recently put it to me). As I learn my clients' social histories, I often wonder what it'd have been like to meet them as juveniles - since, let's face it, virtually all of them had contact with the juvenile justice system - when there was still that shot at "viability" for them. I wonder if, in contrast to capital work, doing "juvie" work would leave me feeling like I was working where there was still hope, where it wasn't too late. Is that a realistic hope, DAC?

  3. Anon: simple answer is yes. I've not been here long, but have talked to enough people and seen enough to know that some kids make incredible changes. What's neat is that the services are also aimed at the families, as you imagine they are very often part of (or all of!) the problem. So there's definitely the sense that kids can be "saved" in a very different way than you're saving them.


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