Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brooklyn's Aniah Ferguson Isn't an "Animal," or Even an Adult—She's a Troubled Girl

The Intercept reports Brooklyn's Aniah Ferguson Isn't an "Animal," or Even an Adult—She's a Troubled Girl . I didn't know the name off-hand but semi-recognized the story of a video of teenage girls beating up another girl going viral a week ago. As terrible as they are I tend to ignore these stories as sensationalism. So The Intercept reports on how the main assailant has been arrested and describe her as:

‘Aniah always had her problems. I can’t lie. And I tried to get help but it didn’t happen,’ her mother said. ‘She was in [anger management] classes though when this happened.’ Ferguson’s mother describes her daughter’s life as a continual struggle. She was raised by a single mother (as much as one can use the past tense for a girl only 16 years old) and was lashing out long before the high-profile attack at McDonald’s. In the past eight months alone, Ferguson has been arrested a half dozen times; the charges included stabbing a brother in the arm, punching her grandmother in the face, and attacking a pregnant woman, according to court records. Prosecutors claim she belongs to a street organization known as the Young Savages — an offshoot of the Chicago-born Folk Nation gang.

So I read this and think, wow, sounds like a violent person in a gang, I'm ok with her being in jail for long time. The article goes on to describe her as a 16 year-old single mother who lives in an "apartment that Ferguson’s mother, grandmother, siblings and one-year-old daughter all share." Then I read, "Take the sentence Ferguson faces for gang assault and robbery: up to 25 years behind bars. She will be charged as an adult even though she isn’t one." 25 years sounds like way too long a sentence for this. I could imagine a similar fight breaking out at a football or basketball game and not having much more consequences then a suspension. Then of course they go on to question our whole prison system:

In all the outrage about her case, few are asking the most basic pragmatic questions. Even given Ferguson’s recent history of violence, is long-term imprisonment the correct route to take? Should a troubled and emotionally unstable teen be thrust into a harsh prison environment, when research shows she will likely pick up worse criminal habits there? Will Ferguson’s incarceration solve any of her problems — or society’s — or will it exacerbate them? The United States already imprisons 30 percent of incarcerated women worldwide.

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