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Fri Feb 16, 2018, 09:46 PM

Juvenile Mental Health

Last edited Sat Feb 17, 2018, 01:13 AM - Edit history (1)

Nikolas Cruz is 19, and will be tried as an adult. Had he been 17.5 years old, he would have the opportunity for parole. The issue of his age versus whether or not he should be tried as an adult has been rankling me. I am NOT advocating for him. I am, however, pointing out the arbitrariness of choosing 18 as the age at which a person becomes an "adult". Of particular interest in this paragraph is the last sentence of Justice Kagan's ruling.

Majority opinion

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority of the court "that mandatory life without parole for those under age of 18 at the time of their crime violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments". "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features – among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences," Justice Kagan said. "It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him – and from which he cannot usually extricate himself – no matter how brutal or dysfunctional."


This leads me to point two, access to mental health care and effectiveness of mental health care versus incarceration. After perusing the Mental Health America website, I have come across a few passages that sum up part of the problem that led to the Florida shooting:

Lack of funding has long been one of the main causes of our failure to provide the services needed to keep children out of the juvenile justice system or to provide appropriate care to children in the system. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid, has created a new funding stream that will help. Federal and state health insurance parity laws will also help ensure that needed services are covered under private health insurance plans.

In 2007, with a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) issued its Blueprint for Change: A Comprehensive Model for the Identification and Treatment of Youth with Mental Health Needs in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System.

MHA endorses the key principles which form the basis for the NCMHJJ Blueprint:

> Children should not have to enter the juvenile justice system in order to access mental health services.

> Mental health services should be consistent with the developmental realities of children.


These few passages point toward two issues encountered in considering the case of Nikolas Cruz. First, he was identified as troubled while he was still a "juvenile" in school. The easiest way for the school to deal with him was to expel him. Let's call this administrative negligence. The second issue is imperiled access to mental health care. Being expelled from the school had the double consequence of removing a primary avenue to mental health care (school counselor plus his/her contacts with competent outside specialists) as well as placing the burden of locating health care and paying for it on Cruz's terminally ill foster mother (later on Nikolas himself, who would have had to apply through Medicaid). At the end of the day, Nikolas Cruz was on his own.

I put these sources out there for your consideration. The conclusion I draw from this is that we have a particularly vulnerable population of people on the verge of adulthood (but not quite), and we are failing them.

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Reply Juvenile Mental Health (Original post)
ProudLib72 Feb 2018 OP
bitterross Feb 2018 #1
ProudLib72 Feb 2018 #2
bitterross Feb 2018 #3
ProudLib72 Feb 2018 #4
ProudLib72 Feb 2018 #5

Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Fri Feb 16, 2018, 10:15 PM

1. If we are going to pick an aribtrary age, 25 is more appropriate.


I absolutely get that you are not advocating specifically for Cruz.

I think we are very definitely failing our youth and each other.

Studies show the adult brain is not fully developed until much later than 18. It is highly likely that Cruz has development issues that should be taken into account. But our justice system is all about vengeance and punishment. Not a thing to do with rehabilitation or treatment of any kind.

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Response to bitterross (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 16, 2018, 10:56 PM

2. Exactly

Cruz is merely an example. Kagen's ruling is also a little off to me. I realize she was operating under the "18 as adult" constraint, but that last sentence in the passage really stands out for me. In the Cruz example, we are talking about someone whose trouble began before he was 18, and continues still.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 16, 2018, 11:05 PM

3. My take is colored by having a schizophrenic brother.


My brother was always a troubled child. He didn't have what is commonly referred to as his schizophrenic "break" until he was 19 or 20. After that time was when we had him committed against his will. He became very paranoid and violent.

I'm not saying that is what is going on with Cruz but I'm not saying it isn't either. We grew up in farm country and had guns around all our lives. Just not assault rifles. Those just were not around and no one had ever done a Columbine-style shooting yet. I do really wonder if my brother could have gone to those lengths if such things were as common back then as they are now.

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Response to bitterross (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 16, 2018, 11:41 PM

4. My take is colored by having a major bout of depression when I was 19 - 20

I was a self-destructive "adult" in college. Luckily though, my parents lived only 30 miles away and I saw them often. They recognized it and got me help. Had I truly been on my own at the time, things would have gone a lot worse. As a true "adult" now, I like to believe I'm cognizant enough of my own thought/behavior patterns to recognize when I'm getting into trouble.

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Response to ProudLib72 (Original post)

Sat Feb 17, 2018, 01:23 PM

5. Shameless kick

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