Friday, February 09, 2007

What Is This “Criminal Intent” Of Which You Speak?

Let’s face it: even the brightest little kids can be pretty stupid by adult standards. When I was about seven I lived near a street that must have seen a lot of car accidents, because you could walk along the curb and find no shortage of little squares of broken safety glass, and red and orange pieces of broken tail and brake lights.

I thought these were diamonds, rubies and topazes, since I was still young enough to consider the world the sort of place where a kid could find millions of dollars’ worth of jewels lying in the street and the grownups wouldn't notice. One day I even filled a church offering-envelope with this accident detritus and gave it to the minister, telling him “They’re JEWELS! You can sell them and use the money for the church!”

The minister, to his credit, was kind enough to smile and say thank-you rather than give me an angry lecture on the difference between gemstones and street garbage. Thank God I grew into adulthood when I did — if a kid tried pulling the “fill an envelope with broken glass” stunt today she’d probably be arrested on suspicion of trying to kill the minister. Suppose he cut himself and bled to death!

Get this: yesterday was a bright and sunny one here in Connecticut. Down in New Haven, a second-grade boy walking to school found a bagful of shiny, pretty rocks glittering in the sun. He picked up the bag and brought it to school, and even shared his newfound treasure with his classmates.

The little boy made no attempt to hide what he’d found, since he had no idea there was anything wrong with bringing a bagful of shiny rocks to class. That’s because the little boy never heard of “crack cocaine.” But the New Haven police surely have, and so they arrested a seven-year-old boy for possession of narcotics.

The 7-year-old boy, whose name was not released, told officers he found the packets of drugs on his way to Truman School on Wednesday, police said.

"We interviewed enough people that we're comfortable with that answer," New Haven police Sgt. Rick Rodriguez said.

But they're still charging a seven-year-old with possession.

NEXT-DAY ADDENDUM: I have found a more detailed story in another paper here. This story says the kid is eight, not seven, and offers the following explanation for why he was arrested and charged with a felony:
The boy is charged with a felony, but police decided to arrest him to ensure he receives services from the court, such as counseling, said Police Chief Francisco Ortiz.

"I was surprised also" that the boy was arrested, Ortiz said. "He was not fingerprinted. The goal here is not to punish the child but to get court services and get support for the child that he might not otherwise get if an arrest was not made."
Oh, Christ. This kid does not need "court services" or "counseling" anymore than I did when I gave my minister a bagful of broken glass. All I needed was somebody to take two minutes to explain why those shiny things in the street are best left alone. And while the boy in this story certainly needs to be told why those pretty rocks he found are not something children should play with, what are the realistic chances that he'll find another baggie of crack the next time he goes to school, anyway? What "counseling" does a small child need for seeing something shiny in the street and wanting to pick it up?

32 Comments:

Blogger rhhardin said...

That supports the validity of the institution. People in the institution like it. It shows the masses that they're powerless by comparison.

Erving Goffman _Asylums_ is a wonderful eye-opener, taking mental institutions as a model of a totalizing institution ; it was widely misread as recommending the closing down of mental institutions. Not his point at all! His point was that institutions run this way. All of them. And the population ruled manages to carve out little individualizing niches in them.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

A-freaking-mazing. I continue to be surprised at the people that are in the State Attorney offices.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Time to implement a Zero-Tolerance policy against inane bureaucracies.

Of course, after Boston's "Bomb Hoax" got all that national attention, maybe New Haven decided it wanted to wallow in public ridicule, as well. I can't imagine a prosecutor stupid enough to take this case before a judge - much less a jury. But, as others have said, it's hard to believe how incredibly nonsensical an entrenched organization can be.

Once upon a time, we hired people in positions of authority for, among other things, their ability to exercise judgment and discretion in unusual situations. Now, we seem to value conformance with "the regulations" more than intelligently applied discretion.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

I was unaware that a seven year old could be charged with anything, let alone a felony. The law must be different in your state.

ps. Where's the adverts that usually appear on your blog?

12:18 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I had no idea that kids that young could be charged with felonies either, especially in cases where nobody was hurt and the kid in question clearly had no idea he was doing anything wrong. But Connecticut continues in its quest to turn itself into the Mississippi of the North.

Smartass, the Googlebots kicked me out. Remember last week, in my post "Karma Zabitch," when I talked about how I discovered that a former employer of mine was NOT the author of an online encyclopedia as he said, but a spam-content producer? He claimed he would make money off of online advertising, and I, in an attempt to explain how a smart woman like me fell for this, said "None of this made any sense to me, but then I have no idea how you make money off of online advertising anyway. Don't you freeloaders ever click on a mothafizzuckin' blog ad, for Chrissakes?"

I thought it was obvious that I was making a joke, but a week later I got an e-mail telling me I was in violation of the terms of the agreement. I'm pretty sure nobody used one of those robotic programs to click on ads, so I can only guess it was that post of mine that put me on the bots' bad side. Ah, well, easy come easy go.

Fuck ye not with the Googlebots. Let this be a lesson to any of you who start a blog and try to make a little money off of it. Google ads are like Fight Club--the first rule of Google ads are, DON'T TALK ABOUT GOOGLE ADS.

8:07 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Google has a zero tolerance policy, not for justice or common sense but so that their record is clean for advertisers, which is much more valuable to their product's reputation.

The officialdom on the other hand is very concerned that it be made clear that the kid is just the sort of thing their services are designed to help, and they're the ones to provide the services.

That's how the institution survives.

8:39 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

In general, if you want to see the sociology of modern ``public problems,'' see Joseph R Gusfield _Contested Meanings : The Construction of Alcohol Problems_ which is actually more diverse.

The key moves are : define a public problem, and then take ownership of it.

Key to defining a public problem is to frame it as something on which the debate has already ended.

That's why it's maddening. There's no place for your voice. But then what are rhetorical tricks for, if not that?

8:43 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

What baffles me, Ron, is that they're saying this kid needs counseling for. . . what? Being too young and innocent to know about crack? If the kid KNEW what it was he'd found, and passed it out to his classmates saying "This is fun! You should try it! Here, you can borrow my crack pipe" then yes, I'd say give the kid some counseling. There's obviously a problem.

But, CHRIST! He probably just thought he'd found some pretty goddamned rocks. I did an image-search for "crack cocaine" before I made that post; when I was seven I probably would have thought they were uncut diamonds or something silly like that.

I don't know if you noticed, but I made an addition to this post; I found another story that provides more detail about this poor child's case.

8:49 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

They're offering the explanation that the kid needs counseling not because it's common sense, but because they know you can't win the argument. It's out of your hands. He is just the sort of object that their vast service organization is equipped to supply help to, and he's already been made into that object.

The debate has been had already, and it's over.

That's the rhetorical position you take ownership of some flow of funds with.

Nobody can object because you've taken over all the terrain you can argue from.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

The kid probably does need counselling, because of the trauma of being arrested....

I would lay money the kid will never become a geologist by trade with such a high aversion to rocks.

Hey, did the Googlebots send you, at least, the cash you did earn through them, or does it go into a hole awaiting the rest of the $100 which will never come? At least you've got your soul back.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It all goes back, Moose. All that aggravation I went through figuring out where to paste the code into this blog's template turned out to be for nothing.

Damn. And I was about a week from getting my first check, too.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Damn. And I was about a week from getting my first check, too.

That doesn't seem right, that they can keep what you've already 'earned' as such.

Just how did you violate the TOS, I'm curious. Being blissfully ignorant of such things, I have no idea what people mean when they ominiously say "...they have strict rules.."

I will say that I NEVER click through ads, but I did here just trying to help you.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

They didn't tell me, Moose. I just got an e-mail saying my account was suspended, and when I tried the "appeal" option they sent me another e-mail a few hours later saying "Nope, you're in violation, you're banned for life and can never have an account with us again." But they had a list of reasons why one might be in violation, including using a robotic program to click on ads (which I highly doubt anyone has done) or encouraging people to click on ads (which I'll freely admit to doing, albeit in a joking context).

I'm telling myself that this is like the time I was denounced from the pulpit of a local church after the priest took offense to an article I wrote in the paper--i.e., further proof I'm a rebellious badass. The other options are just too depressing.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

(Warning: Major threadjacking, but continuing the discussion....)

But how does that give them the right to keep YOUR money that you've already earned? That's what makes no sense to me.

That issue aside, "banned for life" is somewhat extreme I'd say. It would seem that they would want people to click on ads, as that's what generates revenue for them, though I can understand a robotic being a problem.

Seems like perhaps Google is a bit more facisct than they want to admit?

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anne O'Neimaus said...

(More major threadjacking)

Jennifer: Is it you personally that's "banned for life", or just your current site (or bank-account, or however they are identifying you)?

Moose: They undoubtedly justify keeping her almost-$100 by some wording of the terms-of-contract. I would bet that it's not uncommon for people/sites to drop out of GoogleAds for one reason or another, and keeping everything up to the next hundred probably adds up to some rather significant cash.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Actually, I think Google is going to refund the money to the advertisers in question. But according to the e-mail they sent (which I have unfortunately deleted) I can NEVER EVER EVER sign up for Google ads again. I don't know if that's me as in "the Feralgenius blog" or me as in "me, the person who writes the blog." I suspect that if they get another application from a different blog by my same name and SSN it will be rejected.

I'll do a websearch later to see if I can find another advertising scenario, maybe one where payment is based on number of people who SEE the ad, not the number of people who CLICK on it. That way, there would be nothing wrong with me making a joke if an ad is ludicrously unsuited to the posts at hand.

I just hope I don't end up with those banner ads featuring the annoying dancers who want to give you a cheap mortgage.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Since we're already off track...

I would bet that it's not uncommon for people/sites to drop out of GoogleAds for one reason or another, and keeping everything up to the next hundred probably adds up to some rather significant cash.

I agree wholeheartedly, which is my point. Seems like there should be a class action suit by the offended minority out there someplace. From what little I DO know about such things, people deal with rates (percentages) of people that click through. In other words, 0.X% actually complete a sale, and their pricing is driven by that based on the number of people who see the website. Therefore, Jennifer's money was "earned" when the person saw the website, unless she did something which so dramatically affected the rate that it skewed the equation capture rate.

Ok, so I'm not as dumb as I pretend to be at times.

Anyway, my point is that the money earned is earned when I click, not when I buy, erego Jennifer has provided a service and should be compensated. Admittedly her "almost $100" is not so much to entice an attorney, but I would agree there's a hell of a lot more out there.

I would think that the fact that they didn't warn her and allow her opportunity to remedy the breach would also be in her favor, but that would require too many brain cells for me to ponder further.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Moose, not only did they "not allow me to remedy the breach"; they didn't even tell me what the breach WAS! I am guessing that my throwaway joke "I have no idea how to make money off of online advertising. Don't you freeloaders ever click on a mothafizzuckin' blog ad?" is what put me in violation, but who knows?

When I filled out that appeal, there's a section where you're supposed to explain why you think you shouldn't be held responsible for the breach of terms. I wrote something like "I can't answer, because I don't know what the breach was."

Since robotic click programs were one of the mentioned breach possibilities, I tried checking my account to see if maybe I had an unusually large number of clicks for that day, but I couldn't access the account since it had already been disabled. So my best guess is that I'm in violation of the "don't encourage people to click on ads" bit.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous A moose said...

they didn't even tell me what the breach WAS!

I understood that. There's got to be someone you can call and find out what happened.

I still don't understand why you can't talk about the doggone ads.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

"like the time I was denounced from the pulpit of a local church after the priest took offense to an article I wrote in the paper--i.e., further proof I'm a rebellious badass."

Uh oh! Have we inadvertantly stumbled upon a new nickname for you? Feral Genius aka BADASS! LOL. I love it! ;-)

Secondly, if a local priest took offense to something you wrote in the paper, you must be doing something right. In my experience such papers are usually pretty innocuous.

Thirdly, if Google kept the money that you had earned so far, then they're as much of a rip off artist as some of the assholes they accepted advertising from.

And last, but not least, sorry you don't get that damned cup of coffee after all. ;-)

9:33 PM  
Anonymous A moose said...

And last, but not least, sorry you don't get that damned cup of coffee after all. ;-)

I propose we start a "Buy Jennifer a cup o'joe" fund, I've got a paypal address around here somewhere, who's collecting? I'd throw a buck or two in there.

I'm being serious, btw. Jennifer, you got paypal on your Blog email acct?

4:49 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

if a local priest took offense to something you wrote in the paper, you must be doing something right. In my experience such papers are usually pretty innocuous.

Unfortunately, so was my paper. This was the lamest controversy ever: I attended a local church's Corpus Christi procession, and as I walked around talking to people about the story they all mentioned their new monstrance, which had been personally blessed by the late pope John Paul II. They were obviously quite proud of this, so I made that the lead-in to my story:

The monstrance of St. Whosis church, personally blessed by the late pope John Paul II, made its first public appearance Sunday at St. Whosis' Corpus Christi procession.

I turned it in to my editor, who immediately handed it back. "What the hell's a monstrance? What the hell does a monstrance look like? Go rewrite this."

So I did, and after the first sentence added the following:

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the monstrance is used to display the blessed Eucharist, which symbolizes the physical body of Christ. St. Whosis' gold monstrance looks like a cross with a sunburst interposed where the two bars of the cross meet. In the center of the sunburst, the white Eucharist can be seen.

Anybody care to guess what it was about my opening that made all the Catholics get made at me?

As was explained to me and my editor multiple times over the next several months, the Eucharist does not symbolize the body of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ; the Eucharist is the body or O.L.A.S.J.C.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anne O'Neimaus said...

"Symbolizes", eh? My guess is the Catholics objected to your failing to support Miraculous Transmogrification.

You probably could have gotten away with:

...the blessed Eucharist, the "body of Christ".

That way, you can claim to be either using a metaphor, or writing literally, depending upon who is attacking you.

(BTW: notice the absence of picture with my post. That's because I forgot to login to my Blogger account before coming to yours, via my bookmark.)

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anne O'Neimaus said...

Oops - your last paragraph was off the bottom of my screen. I thought you had actually ended with a question, rather than answering your own rhetorical.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As was explained to me and my editor multiple times over the next several months, the Eucharist does not symbolize the body of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ; the Eucharist is the body

Historically, and I mean hundreds of years ago, this was considered an important theological point. Under Protestant consubstantiation the bread is considered as a symbol, while under the roman Catholic view, the bread is considered to be miraculously transformed into the actual body of Christ.

I don't think your editors problem was so much giving offense to actual Catholics, but rather that it makes the newspaper look a bit oblivious to some theological history that educated people are expected to know.

I doubt that the average Catholic these days could tell you what the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation are, but you know how newspapers are: they like to pretend that the writers are more educated than the average Jane.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Is that you, Gary?

9:11 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Under Protestant consubstantiation the bread is considered as a symbol, while under the roman Catholic view, the bread is considered to be miraculously transformed into the actual body of Christ.

Of which both kind of sort of arrive at something disconnected from what the old hebrew ceremony which started the whole thing was.

I do agree that it's probably more an issue of being ejukated on the rules of whatever game you're reporting on.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Back to the original post about the poor 8 year old child...I am just glad that he does not live in Texas. In most other states a child's record is wiped clean at the age of 18. Not so in Texas. Any record created no matter what the age stays with you until you die.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

[Back to the original post about the poor 8 year old child...I am just glad that he does not live in Texas. In most other states a child's record is wiped clean at the age of 18. Not so in Texas. Any record created no matter what the age stays with you until you die.]

I live in Texas, too; as far as I know, a child younger than ten can not be charged with a crime...unless they have changed the law in the last decade or so. Also, a juvenile's record is sealed by the court, and it used to be that after a certain age no one could access it. That may have been changed recently; not having any juveniles to worry about, I don't keep up with such things much.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I don't remember how recently the laws changed; but, I do know that records minors establish before they're 18 are no longer sealed and carry over onto adulthood.

I think this was in an effort to curb all the gange violence or at least track the little...um...trouble makers after they leave juvie hall.

As far as an age limit for charging a child goes, I'll have to check with my cop-buddies on that one.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

A column called "Quick Takes" or "QT" (by Zay N. Smith) occasionally runs an item called The Case for Zero Tolerance of Modern School Administrators (cont'd)

December 7, 2003:

The Bossier Parish School Board in Louisiana, citing its zero-tolerance drug policy, has upheld the expulsion of a high school sophomore because she carried Advil in her purse.

September 21, 2006:

A 6-year-old who brought his two-inch orange plastic squirt gun to Milton Moore Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo., was suspended for 10 days under the school's weapons policy.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous TC said...

Well think of it like this, nest time the kid finds a bag of rocks he can sell them!

What's this about Google playing polly pure bread? I get more spam via Gmail than ANY other of the three email services I use!

They are the ones that should be charged a 100 bucks for EXPOSING us to what THEY either generate or support!

11:09 PM  

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