Thomas White belongs at Boys Town
June 07, 2007
To the editor:

Last October 13-year old Thomas White made the immature mistake of bringing a gun to school and firing it into the ceiling of Memorial Middle School. During the incident nobody was hurt or killed. Thomas was badly bullied for years by his schoolmates and the school administration did absolutely zero to stop it. Thomas reacted to the years of abuse with the weapon.

The district attorney's office had Thomas certified as an adult. Remember, we are talking about a 7th-grader here. As a result of their over-zealous actions, Thomas sits in the Joplin County Jail where he spends 23-hours a day in his tiny prison cell. This is how Missouri treats a 7th-grade child. Where is the logic?

Common sense and decency need to prevail because Thomas is a child whose case needs to be heard in Juvenile Court, where the focus is on rehabilitation. A recent study done by Florida State University researchers found that the majority of people polled want to preserve the juvenile justice system that emerged a century ago out of the belief that children are more salvageable than their adult counterparts.

Prosecution in an adult court communicates to the adolescent that he is unsalvageable, and, hence, repeat offenses become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The adult criminal court exposes youth to harsher incarceration settings and less effective probation supervision in the criminal justice system.

Boys and Girls Town also has made a request to take Thomas. They have a proven track record of rehabilitating troubled youths. This would be the best solution for Thomas. He would be there until he turns 21. I would think it would be cost-effective to have him there, rather than spend his years rotting in prison. Tax dollars could go for something constructive for a change.

Kathy Harris
Pace, FL

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