by Lorenz

I am an American citizen born and raised in Germany. While I love the USA and this is my home country, my values, I have found, are grounded in those of Western Europe, as I am discovering in my early 40s.

eur3What continues to surprise me is that the US justice system is geared towards punishment, rather than rehabilitation and education. No one in Western Europe would doubt, that this young man had problems, was a criminal, and needed to serve a punishment of several years in prison, but nobody would ever, ever, suggest a life needs to be wasted and conclude a teenager needs to be put away for several life sentences?!??!?! Are you kidding?!

Note: Lorenz is referring to “Behind and Beyond the Wall”: Tyler’s Story of Finding Life in Darkness.

How is that teenager the same person at 17 that he will be when he is 43 like me? We all had problems at age 17! This is horrendous!

eurIn Western Europe, we can admit that young people do dumb things. It’s a much much harsher process here in the US. (Of course, we don’t have supermarket access to guns and then ask ourselves innocently (“dumbly” – yes go ahead critique) how all those “horrible things” could happen on virtually a daily basis).

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that in Western Europe, in Germany (or Austria, or Poland, or France) this young man would have gotten a well deserved 4-6 years in prison. But in the US, the justice system that is completely built on punishment, rather than rehabilitation, is completely lagging more evolved parts of the world; it is lagging and is phenomenally old fashioned…

eur4I once read an article about how the the US, as a society, is 100 years behind Western Europe.

Then, when I read articles like Tyler’s story, I realize…yes, it is!!! 100 years behind Western Europe. And this is not to say that Western Europe is in any way perfect. It’s not. Far from it. But when its judicial system is compared to what we have in the US, it seems like heaven on earth.



Click here to view Tyler’s posts:

“Behind and Beyond the Wall”: The Gift of Freedom

“Behind and Beyond the Wall”: Tyler’s Story of Finding Life in Darkness


16 Responses to Is American Justice 100 Years Behind Western Europe?

  1. liselasalle says:

    You are so right. Where is the American Dream? Not in US jails and prisons because it has become the American Nightmare! It is all about revenge and punishment. To condemn a 17-year old boy to spend the rest of his life incarcerated is insanity, especially when the crime does not fit the punishment.
    Restorative justice seems to be a foreign notion in America.

    The death penalty should be off the table.

  2. Darcia Helle says:

    Well said, Lorenz. Our ‘justice’ system is devolving, rather than evolving, and it’s a scary thing.

  3. Rick says:

    Very well said, Lorenz. As I earlier commented, you’re probably being too charitable in saying that the American justice system is only 100 years behind that of Europe. In the last 40 years (coinciding with Nixon’s War on Drugs), the U.S. justice system has become focused on increasing punishments while abdicating the traditional rehabilitative function of the justice system. Congress and state legislatures have enacted increasingly harsh penalties against defendants in order to appear “tough on crime,” as evidenced by the proliferation of “mandatory minimum” sentences and “three strikes laws” and the ever-increasing number of inmates placed in the “for-profit” prison industrial complex. With more people behind bars or under court supervision than any other country in history, America has become a modern-day gulag, far surpassing in scale even the old Soviet gulag system. Fortunately, the pendulum may slowing be swinging away from a strictly punitive criminal justice system back toward a more rehabilitative and restorative model of justice, if only because we can no longer afford the high economic and social costs of heavy punishment.

  4. Nicholas Frank says:

    Wow! What a terrific post. Thank you Lorenz for your thoughtful opinions and information. Of course, I agree completely with you. Punishment for the sake of punishment is nothing but a black hole from which nothing can ultimately escape. It is pulling all of us in. Punishment with purpose, i.e., Rehabilitation, on the other hand, is more practical, more logical, more reasonable, more sustainable, more humane and less costly by all measures. Keep up the good fight everyone! We just might prevail in the long run. And, I hope we will succeed in getting Tyler out of there before he is too old to care.


  5. Nicholas Frank says:

    And, before I call it a night. I want to say thank you to Patrick for continuing to bring attention to this incredibly important issue. Patrick, you are a hero.


    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Just trying to help out a bit. I couldn’t do it without everybody else’s help.

      I always remember the line: “There but for fortune go you or I.”

  6. Chris says:

    Besides everything in the excellent post and comments, let’s not forget that our penal system practically condones the rape of prisoners — especially the young — by more hardened members of the population. That is beyond unconscionable.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Yes. And I will point out what is one of the scariest things of all. The ATCB posts are shared to Facebook and virtually every time that I run a story about some awful crime, one or more FB commenters will chortle gleefully about what Big Bubba is going to do to the criminal once he’s incarcerated. In other words, much of America takes real vicarious pleasure in the notion that so-and-so will be raped and/or gang-raped once he’s locked up.

  7. Chris says:

    I’m not on Facebook but I see the same thing on any website that covers crime and and allows comments. It’s sick.

    • Veruca salt says:

      I don’t find it sickening when the criminal is violent disgusting waste of human life and has comitted heinous crimes against children and such. It angers me and many others that men who have ruined kids lives and torn families apart because of their sick sexual perversions get less times than some addicts doing bids for possession. So I understand the want for “prison justice”.

      I’ve been the big house…and it’s a different world for female inmates. I couldn’t imagine being an 18 white kid in this countries penal system.

  8. Thank you Lili & Lorenz for the wonderful comments you’ve made. Words can help in so many ways in the world of JUSTICE! And I’ve read so many beautiful words right here on this site. Still, tears fall freely from my eyes each time I read a page in “Destructive Justice” tears fall unbidden from my eyes. Every time I think of Tyler ‘living’ where he is, my heart breaks all over again. I want it to stop! I want Tyler free! He’s paid his debt.

  9. marva greenleaf says:

    i am Mom. the heart breaks and breaks and lives while breaking, i thank God we continue to lift each other up and out with hope for a new chapter for Tyler, for each of us, growing better, never bitter. i believe.

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