An hour south of Miami, down the street from an alligator farm, a security guard buzzes visitors into the Homestead Correctional Institution. Each guest’s bags are run through a rickety metal detector and he or she is issued a panic button — a portable alarm that can be clipped to a waistband and pressed if an inmate attacks.
Just as lightning flashes and dances across the sky, so too, does this life I live. In a world away, a jungle so thick that everything touches you, a war not of my making, took my father and sister in a cloud of thundering smoke.
On Friday, Manhattan Justice Edward McLaughlin sentenced Taylonn Murphy Jr. to 50 years to life for the 2011 murder of Walter Sumter. Murphy was also convicted of conspiracy, robbery and weapons charges.
Last Friday 20 children aged six and seven were systematically executed by a young man, who has been politely defined as suffering from a personality disorder, but who in another time would simply have been referred to as a mad man. His baby-killing arsenal included a Glock 9-mm handgun, a Sig Sauer 9-mm handgun and a Bushmaster 223-cal semi-automatic rifle. Our president brushing tears from his eyes, said, “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful, little kids … They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
“Our hearts are broken.”
The president wept. We, as a nation, mourned. But we as a nation have tolerated a country where gun-related homicide deaths are 20 times greater than any other Western nation.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre Nov. 14 constitutes the second deadliest mass school shooting incident in American history, second only to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in which a single assailant murdered 32 individuals and injured 17 others. With an estimated 26 victims dead — 20 of whom are children — the recent massacre is far and away the deadliest shooting incident to ever occur in one of the nation’s elementary schools. Although mass shooting incidents in university and high school settings have occurred in the past, the Newtown, Conn. massacre serves as a rare instance of a perpetrator targeting elementary school students.
On Saturday, Newtown, Conn. officials released the names of the 20 children and six adults slain in last Friday’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School. According to initial reports, all of the children killed in the attack were between 6 or 7 years old. State police say 12 of the young victims were female and eight were boys. All six of the slain adults were female.
For decades, New York City was besieged by violent crime, peaking in 1990 when the city was ravaged by an estimated 2,245 murders. But then something remarkable happened, according to Greg Berman, author of the recent report “A Thousand Small Sanities: Crime Control Lessons from New York.” Over the last two decades, New York City experienced an unprecedented turnaround in violent crime. In 2009, there were 461 murders in the city, a 79 percent drop from 20 years earlier. Other crimes drastically declined as well, with the city seeing significant decreases in rapes, robberies and car thefts. Berman quotes Frank Zimring, author of the book “The City That Became Safe,” who called the crime rate reduction in New York City “the largest and longest sustained drop in street crime ever experienced by a big city in the developed world.”
The report, released by the Centre for Justice Innovation, explores the possibility of applying the policies and practices implemented in New York City to communities in the United Kingdom – where in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, London’s Metropolitan Police tallied more than 170,000 instances of violent crime, including 113 murders and more than 2,800 rapes.
With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juveniles, a new report looks at the lives of the more than 2,300 people currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18. The new report, “The Lives of Juvenile Lifers,” analyzes the findings of a first-ever national survey of this unique prison population. “The goal was to find out more about who these people are, their community and background,” Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which produced the report, said during a conference call Wednesday. Ashley Nellis, the report’s author and a research analyst at the Sentencing Project, said the intention was to highlight the individual stories of those serving sentences of life without parole. “A lot of times we hear solely about the offense for which they are serving,” she said.