Often, when (most typically) defending criminal youth, their advocates will say something like, "This one mistake shouldn't affect the entire rest of his/her life."
What was the "mistake"? Often, it's something like one of these:

Armed robbery of a convenience store.
Assaulting a homeless person.
Driving way too fast and causing an accident.
Killing someone.
Stealing from his employer's inventory.

My problem is that none of these things are actual mistakes. A mistake is, literally, a missed take. A misunderstanding. Understood that way, none of the above crimes are mistakes.

One characteristic of a true mistake is that it involves, in part, a lack of intentionality. Consider some real mistakes:

I go around the house looking for my glasses until I realize to my chagrin that I'm already wearing them.
I ask someone how his father is doing, forgetting that his father had died.
I add 286+37,206 and come up with 37,493.
I show up at Josh's party in street clothes. It turns out to be a costume party.
I am wondering why my key isn't opening my car's door until I realize that it's not my car; it just looks like my car.

Have you ever thought about this? Do you agree with me?

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I think that the parents and the child should share responsibility. Suppose that two people own a vicious dog that is allowed to roam free. If the dog causes serious bodily harm or kills someone the dog should be put down and the people should be required to make some sort of restitution.

Likewise if parents have a feral child committing serious crimes, the child and the parent should be held responsible.

But this brings up the possibility of the child purposely committing a crime in order to implicate his parents and have them be punished.

@Rocky:

"...what purpose does punishing them  for punishments sake serve beyond feeding our own lust for blood?"

Satisfaction. Closure. Justice.  Rocky, if you want to be humane then give them lethal injection, that's a humane way to remove them from the continued privilege of being part of the society.

If I can determine that the person who committed the crime knew it was wrong, then it is the crime itself that should determine the punishment, not the age, home-life, education, etc.

Gregg- So society has no blame for messing up  or allowing these kids to become so messed up? Do you think they were born evil or did something make them this way?

@Rocky:

Society didn't mess up these kids nor did it cause them to become messed up.

Their genetics, their homelife, their environment messed them up, society at large is blameless.

Is their home life and environment not largely products of their society? Or would they have had the same home life and environment regardless of what society they had been raised in?

@Rocky:

"Is their home life and environment not largely products of their society?..."

In a word 'no', a society is a framework, which is comprised of imaginary walls (rules) that the individuals within the society tacitly agree to.

Home life is the product of the 'home unit', it is in essence a society within a larger society with it's own hierarchy and rules. (we could call them the public society and the private society for ease of reference.)

A social 'environment' is an extension of the actions of the individuals operating within the public and private social framework.

The public society at large (ie. all the individuals and the public framework) are blameless for the actions of individuals within the greater whole. 

The individuals within the private society could be held accountable to some degree for the actions of individual members of their group, each case would differ since private societies framework's are varied and many while the public society has only one framework.

"...Or would they have had the same home life and environment regardless of what society they had been raised in?"

Of course not, social homelife and social environment are very different in North Korea and South Korea, but both societies hold individuals responsible for obeying the different sets of rules (ie. framework).

Was that the Jamie Bulger case?

Yea that's it Reg.

Warning to ALL:

Do not click on the link in Reg's post if you want to be able to sleep after reading it.

A 2 year old was kidnapped and killed by two other young boys age 10.

Brains change.

But something tells me the people in Corrections etc. aren't putting as much effort into the idea of that than we are.

"Brains change."

Yes. But not only randomly, brain can BE changed. Harsh brainwashing techniques, however well they may work, are out of the question in an environment in which introducing even the slightest discomfort (like, say, a missed meal) is seen as cruelty. This is, of course, tied to the idea of rehabilitation. People can often be changed but inflicting lifetime punishments (like publically-accessible records - even for young, first-time offenders) can all but rule out rehabilitation.

Further I missed any mention of what is, to me, the primary  reason for punishment. In my opinion we do not incarcerate people to punish them (revenge / "justice") or to rehabilitate them. The primary reason for incarceration should be to DETER crime. Despite what I believe to represent the most important purpose of prison, we have come to a place in out society where this has been entirely forgotten. This is because prison is not a sufficient deterrent. In prison the worst of society's criminals are still given three square meals a day, a roof over their heads and protection from the elements, and, in most cases, free entertainment, books, TV, and even formal education. How many in our population could not provide those things for themselves.

And consider this. Anyone for whom prison is an overall improvement in their lives is automatically EXEMPT from all laws. They can commit ANY crime and the most serious implications would be an improvement in their lifestyles! 

To me, an effective prison is one where, when someone is released, they go back to the friends and say, "You do NOT want to go there!!"

The problem is that harsh punishment has never been very effective at deterring crime. Even when we used to have a nice family outings  to show our young children public hangings.

@MikeLong & Rocky john:

"...The primary reason for incarceration should be to DETER crime...."

"The problem is that harsh punishment has never been very effective at deterring crime...."

Gentlemen,

There is a difference between Social Engineering and the Justice System.

The Justice System at it's core is about violating rules and the punishment that is applied after the fact.  The punishment is a payment to society for the violation of one of it's many laws.  It's supposed to be 'balanced', in most cases it's not.

All the other stuff (ie. deterrence, rehabilitation, etc.) is Social Engineering and was layered on top of the basic Justice System.

The Idea of the Justice System is a good one, the application within The United States of America is FUBARed.

Did you know that 25% of the individuals behind bars in the entire world are behind bars in the USA?

Did you know that we currently have 2% of our population behind bars and in all of recorded history that is a record?

Did you know that there are individuals serving 25 to life for stealing nothing more valuable then a raincoat because of the 'Three Strike Rule'?

The abuse of the Justice System that currently gets under my skin the most is the Affluenza case. (money talks, justice walks.)

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