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Throwaway People: Will Teens Sent to Die in Prison Get a Second Chance?

Who will speak for these children?

I need to write this letter for my son, Clinton. He survived a mother with a neurobiological illness (which he has inherited), a sister molested by her stepfather and a family losing everything in their lives. Clinton was 8 years old. By the time he became 12,d constant phone calls were made from the public schools, I was medicated and in therapy, Clinton was medicated and in therapy and his sister was medicated, diagnosed with narcolepsy/cataplexy and in therapy for her molestation. Clinton is brilliant, and I sent him to Bethesda School for Boys in Savannah. He excelled in his first and second years at the school, won every academic award and skipped a grade. Then his world began to fall apart, mainly due to the trauma of our family and his view of society and our lack of a familial support system.

Clinton was placed in January 2011 in a substance abuse facility by his paternal grandparents because they could not control him nor would they continue him on his psychiatric medications and therapy. He decompensated mentally and in his environment. I was living abroad for two years and returned prior to his placement. In April 2011 he escaped from the institution and was placed in the Cobb County Jail for attempting to break into a car. Society, family, no one helped. Thirty days later he was released and somehow found his way home to Bryan County and his past residence with his paternal grandparents. I had one conversation with him and tried to talk him into going to a teen runaway shelter, but he was determined to do this alone. I mean no ID, driver’s permit, Social Security card, birth certificate. Naturally, in one month he was picked up for stealing a car (he was planning to live in it) he had used to go to the high school to attempt to enroll for his senior year. Clinton was 17.

He has been charged with two counts of felony theft by receiving and one misdemeanor, carrying two sentences of two years each running concurrently. He sat in the county jail from August 2011 through May 2012. He is now 18 and in prison with adult offenders.

I believe our prison system is one of the worst in the world. We put the disenfranchised, mentally ill and young with no place to go in prison and hold them accountable forever with no hope. This is also holding taxpayers accountable. I tell my son, “Use this time to learn how to be a good citizen.” I have doctors who have known our family for many years attempting to help me get the felony convictions reduced. With a felony on your record in Georgia, you cannot go to school, move into many neighborhoods or apartments or acquire a good job. Clinton is barely 18, gifted and a victim of a broken, fearful system.

Who will be the voice for these children? Who will be the voice of the girl who has a gun and robs someone and has no future? Who?

Mary D. DiBenedetto

Tybee Island, GA

May 25 2012 - 2:32pm