Ugly Truth: Most U.S. Kids Sentenced to Die In Prison Are Black
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Annino and Harper both point to what Harper calls the "unintended consequences" of Florida's rush to incarcerate juveniles. "In 1983 and 1995, the Florida Legislature did not contemplate that hundreds of children would be sent to adult prison in the last two decades," Annino wrote earlier this year. But before the Court, Florida Solicitor General Scott D. Makar defended Florida's large juvenile lifer population, suggesting that the state knew exactly what it was doing. "I believe Florida is very balanced," he told Scalia during oral arguments in Graham v. Florida.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum agrees. In his brief filed in Graham, McCollum argues that it was Florida's brand of tough-on-crime legislation that led to falling crime rates in the late 1990s -- a claim that law professors Jeffrey Fagan and Franklin E. Zimring call "as phony as last decade's crime scare."
"As a member of Congress in the 1990s," they wrote, "[McCollum] promised the United States a 'coming storm' of superpredators as a result of a population surge of kids from fatherless homes."
This, of course was the claim pushed by John DiIulio, the only difference being that, more than a decade later, McCollum still seems determined to believe it.
The "superpredator" myth -- and the racism that breathed life into it -- has been a driving force behind the rush to incarcerate youths of color across the country for years. That the human effects would go undiscussed by the Court may come as no surprise given the justices' routine upholding of other laws that disproportionately affect people and families of color. But in a country with 2.3 million prisoners, leaving race completely out of the decision would not just be willful ignorance; it would amount to what Bryan Stevenson has called an "appalling silence."
*The original version of this piece contained a statistical error in the headline and text, which stated that all 73 juveniles sentenced to life without parole are black. AlterNet regrets the error.