The U.S. penal system has a long history of persecuting the young — sometimes even minors — in its courts. The cruelty with which judges hand down guilty verdicts is astounding. With the slam of a gavel, they destroy the futures of troubled young people for having made one false step. It turns out that such inhumane practices have been taking place in the U.S. for some time.
For many experts, the story of 14-year-old George Stinney, sentenced to death and absolved 70 years after the punishment had been carried out, is a unique but illustrative case. Even now, decades later, the American judicial system continues to shock outside observers, both with its harshness toward young criminals and the children it considers as such.
Back in 1944, the black boy was charged with the murder of two white girls. He was arrested, and his family, threatened with lynching, was driven out of town. The trial was short. The session lasted two and a half hours, and the decision to invoke capital punishment, made without any evidence apart from doubtful eyewitness accounts, took the jury only 10 minutes.
Stinney was sentenced to death in the electric chair. Because of his short stature, he had to sit on a bible he’d brought with him to the execution. At 7:30 a.m. on June 16, 1944, the sentence was carried out in full. On Dec. 17, 2014, 70 years after the execution, the boy was absolved posthumously.
This horrible incident, by all appearances, has not led to any kind of reform in the U.S. judicial system, and young Americans caught in the machinery of “justice” have practically no chance of leading a normal life. And now, it’s not only people with a different skin color that come into the crosshairs, but also believers of other religions — and often children who are just confused. The war on terrorism, as in many other cases, serves as justification for this barbarity.
In the state of Virginia, a 17-year-old teenager was sentenced to 11 years in prison for posting about the Islamic State terrorist group on social networks and dropping his friend off at the airport for a flight to Syria. The prosecution held that Ali Amin helped an 18-year-old friend join the Islamic State ranks.
Prosecutor Dana Boente, who led the charge, believes that this practice should be expanded to other cases. According to her, the punishment for those who write about the Islamic State group on Twitter and Facebook should be no less severe than for those who, weapons in hand, defend the interests of terrorists in the Middle East. Incidentally, you don’t have to enter Islamic State group territory to get caught in the gears of the U.S. judicial system. It’s enough to come within 800 kilometers of Syria’s borders.
This is what happened with 20-year-old Asher Abid Khan, who lives with his parents in Texas. High on terrorist propaganda, he decided to join the Islamic State group and even flew to Istanbul, intending to make his way to Syrian territory from there. But in the Turkish airport, he realized that he was making a huge mistake. Without so much as stepping out of the airport terminal, he bought a ticket and returned to the United States.
And now, just for having a plan, which he himself decided not to carry out, Asher is threatened with 30 years in prison. Even if the young man’s defense attorneys succeed in getting the sentence decreased (which is extremely doubtful given the boiling hatred of the U.S. toward troubled youth), he will spend the rest of his life stamped as a “terrorist,” which will close all doors to a normal life for the boy, and, in practice, push him outside the bounds of lawful society.
For comparison, we can recall the story of Russian student Varya Karaulova, who also came under the influence of propagandists, quit her home country, and set off for Syria. They were able to detain her on the Turkish border and bring her back to Moscow. The Russian legal system recognized that the young woman hadn’t managed to do anything terrible and took her age into account, and so, Karaulova did not receive any punishment and was given a chance to correct her mistake.
Russia’s policy is to fight real terrorists and their sponsors, while the U.S. apparently prefers to ignore the real factors behind the Islamic State group’s growing strength. Instead of fully opposing those who are destabilizing the Middle East, America has started hunting its own children. Moreover, Washington continues to provide the Syrians with weapons and ammunition, which, experts remind us, are falling into the hands of the Islamic State group.
These prosecutions, where teenagers are tried as real terrorists when their only connection to the Islamic State group consists of posts on social media sites, had a new episode that unfolded against the backdrop of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the United States. A 15-year-old teenager was arrested for finding instructions for building a bomb on the Internet and then sharing them on the very same Internet where he’d found them. Law enforcement believes that he could have attempted to assassinate the head of the Catholic Church. The court hasn’t reached a decision yet, but considering the system’s prior record for leaving troubled youths unharmed, it’s hard to put much faith in the outcome.
Luck was kinder to a 14-year-old high school student, Ahmed Mohamed, whose crime consisted in wanting to bring a clock he’d made himself to school. The teachers and police thought he was planning to blow up the school building. The attention journalists brought to the case prevented them from wrecking the child’s life, and the young inventor will not face any jail time for building a clock that scared a few overly imaginative adults.
President Barack Obama invited the boy to visit the White House, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promised him a tour of the popular social network company. From the look of it, these events show us that at least the U.S. isn’t starting to charge people with terrorism just because their name is Ahmed. However, that incident will probably turn out to be a happy exception, and the number of young people caught in the machinery of the American judicial system will continue to grow.