Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Tough Love" reaction to borrowed car ends with dead teen

The short version: New Zealand teen 'borrows' mom's car. Mom & dad decide to teach him a lesson and press charges for theft. On the trip to Auckland Central Remand (jail), another prisoner strangles the teen.

read more | digg story

Back when I was a newspaper reporter for a living, I did a series of articles about tthe juvenile justice system. As part of my reporting, I spent a day just hanging around in the juvenile section of the Houston Police Department, watching, listening. One anecdote from that visit: an upper-middle-class-looking woman came in. Her son had been picked up for something, and they had called her to come for a chat. He was a problem child, she said, and she was at wit's end to get him back in control. Maybe, the cops said, a couple of nights in juvie would convince him that 'life on the inside' is not that much fun. Maybe, she said, crying.

On Digg.com most of the comments on this story say that the parents are bad people. Apparently this teeen had no prior record, and Diggers think the parents were just plain mean and deserve the guilt that they will now carry forever. But I think we don't know enough to vilify anybody. Furthermore, the NZ Diggers note that their jail system isn't typically considered as violent a place as the American system (although this could be because your average NZ Digger has never spent much time in jail....)

It's a sad story, at the end of the day. I never followed up on the woman who left her son in HPD's hands. I'm wondering now: Did a few nights in jail change that kid's life, or simply harden him? I guess I'll never know.


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