This excellent, extensive article speaks VOLUMES about the need for adequate MH care, a field of medicine unknown in most states!
It is just too long for me to edit it wisely, but if you know any juvenile in prison, you should read it!
In the spring of 1998, Kipland Kinkel, then 15, shot and killed his mother, his father and two students at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. He wounded 25 others. At the time, the country was only beginning to fear that mass shootings at schools might actually become a trend.
A shooting at a Mississippi high school the previous October was followed by a cluster of killings across the country perpetrated by students who seemed to select victims at random. After the third in eight months, at a middle school near Jonesboro, Arkansas, President Bill Clinton asked Attorney General Janet Reno to take action. “We do not understand what drives children, whether in small towns or big cities, to pick up guns and take the lives of others,” Clinton said. Two months later, Kinkel’s crime marked the highest-casualty school shootings by a student in three decades. Less than a year after that, the tragedy at Columbine happened, followed by the horrifying string of school shootings that have become a routine of American life since.
Kinkel was sentenced to nearly 112 years without the possibility of parole, which to many in the community felt like the closest thing to closure. A parent of one of the students Kinkel killed said at his sentencing she had “no idea how long it will take before we can lead a normal life without all the constant reminders” of her son’s death. The media rushed to piece together a narrative about him. Friends and acquaintances described a boy with an all-American upbringing but who was obsessed with bombs and guns, dressed in black and listened to Marilyn Manson.
That image of Kinkel has remained frozen in time: the dangerous child people point to as the reason some kids need to be locked up for life. For decades, Kinkel never tried to correct it. He refused every interview request and even avoided being photographed in group activities inside the prison. He worried that reemerging publicly would only further traumatize his victims. But last year he agreed to speak to HuffPost.
Kinkel is one of about 10,000 people nationwide serving life or life-equivalent sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18, when their brains were not yet fully developed. The U.S. is the only country that allows juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. The children condemned to die in prison are disproportionately Black and brown, the result of years of racist fearmongering about so-called “super-predator” youth. But in Oregon, which is overwhelmingly white and has had a high rate of juvenile incarceration, Kinkel is one of the most infamous prisoners.
In recent years, Oregon has undergone intense debates about whether it’s appropriate to lock up juveniles for life. Senate Bill 1008, a juvenile justice reform bill that dramatically changed the way Oregon punished people who committed crimes before they were 18 years old, was introduced in the state legislature in 2019. It eliminated sentences of life without parole for minors, made it harder to prosecute kids as adults and created early-release opportunities for those who demonstrated rehabilitation.