This Is Legal? This Is the Law?

Six-year-old children in North Carolina can be referred to the criminal juvenile justice system. I think first grade is a bit young to start sending kids on the path to prison. I asked the North Carolina attorney general why he does that, and for a breakdown, by race, of these children. Haven’t heard back.

Eleven other states refer children to criminal justice when they’re 10: in fifth grade. The other 38 states seem not to have lost their minds.

Massachusetts this year became the first state to set the age limit at 12, and California is considering such a bill. According to TheAppeal.org, which cited a UCLA analysis of California Department of Justice data, a 5-year-old child in that state was referred to Justice for a “curfew violation.”

Well. There are criminals, and then there’s criminalization.

These may be among the stupidest and most blatantly abusive examples of the U.S. justice system — lately — but there are plenty of others, if you have the stomach to hear them.

Soon, I presume, after Republican white men in the U.S. Senate confirm Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, et al., will approve criminal prosecution of 6-year-old boys for fiddling around with their cousins. Allegedly.

And speaking of children, if you had the stomach to sit through Lindsey Graham’s swanning around at Brett Kavanaugh’s Senatte Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, I suppose you could sit through anything.

In June, for instance, a family court judge in Massachusetts ruled that the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a special-needs day and residential school, may keep using electric shock to discipline its students.

“The facility in question is the only school in the country that still uses electric shock on its students,” according to the September issue of Criminal Legal News. The monthly magazine reported that a former teacher at that alleged school said electric shocks were administered to students “for infractions as small as standing up or speaking without permission.”

Hmmm. It seems to me that deliberately inflicting electroshock on a child is assault, but what do I know? I’m not a family court judge.

I wonder what the schools do in Russia.

Returning to California, the Santa Barbara City Council recently enacted an ordinance, unanimously, making handing out “contraband [plastic] straws punishable by jail time of up to 6 months, and a fine of $1,000 for each “contraband straw.”

That’ll teach little Kimberly to run her contraband lemonade stand.

Bad as all these laws and putatively legal policies are, we have to hand the soiled palm to Virginia, which announced this week that women visiting inmates at state prisons will not be allowed to wear tampons. The policy will take effect Monday, according to The Independent, an English newspaper that does a better job covering the United States than most U.S. newspapers.

The Independent reported: “Lisa Kinney, a spokesperson for the DOC said: ‘If someone chooses to visit a Virginia Department of Corrections inmate, he or she cannot have anything hidden inside a body cavity.’”

Good heavens, no. They might try to smuggle a soda straw in there.

(After this column was posted, I received news that Virginia has suspended its no-tampons policy, after “a number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure.” Those damn news media, again.)

OK, let’s take a deep breath and step back now. And while we’re breathing, let’s get the dogs into it.

A dog’s olfactory bulb — his smeller — is 40 times larger than ours. Having developed his nose to such an extent, the dog — a generally inoffensive and kindly creature — uses his nose, every day, all the time, to investigate the world.

Your average dog can tell, from her nose alone, not only whether a Person In Question has crossed a heavily traveled road in the past 24 hours, but which direction he was going.

I have asked experts how dogs can determine, from smell, which direction someone was going. I have yet to receive a reasonable answer.

All right, then. Granted that dogs have remarkable abilities, far beyond our poor power to add or subtract. Dogs don’t do anything bad with their superpowers. They use their superpowers to amuse themselves, stay alive, and investigate the world.

Now consider humans: a far more malevolent and dishonest species than the dog.

Grant a human a superpower — the ability to indict someone, for example, and send him to prison, or on the path to prison — the human will use it, particularly if it will increase his power, and prestige, and income, and sexual opportunities.

Criminal laws grant extraordinary powers. Criminal laws about children — and, alas, about women — are often not only extraordinary, but nearly insane.

I rest my case.

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