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March 06, 2009

Eleven year old charged as an adult

Brown_320 Would you put this 11 year old in prison for the rest of his life?

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged an 11-year-old boy as an adult for murdering his father's girlfriend. They said that they intend to ask that he be imprisoned for the rest of his life under Pennsylvania's Juvenile Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) statute. Let me be clear: what the boy did is awful, and there should be consequences for it. But those consequences should include reforming his moral compass, rather than writing him off as unsalvageable. Putting him in an adult prison for the rest of his life is essentially denying the young boy the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation.

It surprises most people to realize that in forty-two states and under federal law, a child under 18 who commits a serious crime is classified as an adult for prosecution and punishment. In some states, children as young as ten are transformed instantly into adults for criminal justice purposes. Remember, these children are too young to buy cigarettes and alcohol, too young to shave, often too young to drive. Many of these kids still have stuffed animals on their beds. Yet, they are tried as adults, and if convicted, they are sent to adult prison, often for life without any possibility of parole.

There are currently at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who are imprisoned for the rest of their lives for crimes they committed as children. These are not "super-predators" with long records of vicious crimes. In fact, an estimated 59 percent of these youngsters received the sentence for their first-ever criminal conviction.

The crime this boy committed was horrible. He hid a shotgun under a blanket and calmly walked downstairs and shot his father's girlfriend in the back of her head. This is a shocking crime. But it was also his first run-in with the law. Despite his clean record, state law requires that he be charged as an adult. And the District Attorney said he expects the boy to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Remember, this is an 11-year-old child. Yet he was imprisoned in the local jail with other adults. The jail had no orange jumpsuit that could fit his slight frame. To isolate him from the adult prisoners, the boy was held in a 10x10 cell. He could not take a shower because that would require the jail to lock down every prisoner to allow him to walk to the showers without coming in contact with the adult prisoners. Mercifully, after several days the sheriff insisted that the boy's needs be taken care of, and he was transferred to a juvenile facility.

This brief bit of common sense and mercy may soon be eliminated by a justice system intent on keeping him in prison until he dies.

You can hear the cry of frustration in the voice of a father facing a similar future with a child in an adult prison:

I'm a former cop.  I'm a true believer in law and order.  But my son was a child when this happened.  He wasn't thinking like an adult, and he wasn't an adult...how is it that the law can treat him as if he is one?

-- Frank C., father of youth offender sentenced to live without parole, October 22, 2004.

The terrible crimes committed by children can ruin lives, causing injury and death to the victims and grief to their families and friends. Sentencing must reflect the seriousness of the crime, but it also must acknowledge that culpability can be substantially diminished by reason of the youth and immaturity of the perpetrator. Child offenders should be given the possibility of freedom one day when they have matured and demonstrated their remorse and capacity for rehabilitation. 

There is a movement across the country to eliminate life sentences for youthful offenders. The bills would not automatically release the offenders at a certain age, but rather offer the possibility that they could be released if they had shown they were prepared to lead a law-abiding life in the community.

Resources on Juvenile Justice and JLWOP:

Justice Fellowship's Juvenile Justice Resource Page

Campaign for Youth Justice

Justice for Juveniles

(Image © AP)

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Dan Gill

Back up the boat a little. This boy's fate is horrible. But to lump together all states that allow some offenders under the age of 18 to be tried as adults is a bit off. What about a 17-year-old gangbanger? A 16-year-old? What is the lowest age at which a person is responsible for a heinous crime?

I'm all for restorative justice. But you've overstated your case by using a broad generalization.


The comment by Mr Gill is quite correct - these cases are broadly different,as was the almost 17 year old who murdered three members of my family, including my beautiful pregnant 25 year old sister, and only for the "thrill" of it. He plotted it carefully, he was incredibly intelligent, from an excellent home, and he acted alone, not on impulse.

These cases widely vary.

Victims families of these crimes should be brought fully to the table of this public policy discussion about what to do with about the sentencing issue.

Help victims families of these crimes - read more at www.jlwopvictims.org.


I have a question, has anyone actually found out the reason behind such a tradegy, or are we to assume that this child just woke up one morning and was ABLE to get ahold of a SHOTGUN, load it, and the calmly walk down stairs and just pull a trigger, for the heck of it????
This child obviously has some issues that are deep seeded, and needs the opportunity to to rehabilitate, NO im not defending murder, but this is child, and we in the moral standing of humanity, should take a momentary pause and ask why, and what can be done.
The jail, is or prison is no place for a child, and even the worst offenders of the moral compass, have the opportunity for a parole, ESPECIALLY ON a FIRST OFFENSE, and never having a brush with the law prior to this, there is something more to this sitution that we know, we need to take the time to find out, then decide.


Either this child has a serious personality defect resulting in his asocial behavior or there were some causal factors not discussed in this article, or both. Either way, keeping children in cages for a lifetime is hard to justify, although if the child has an untreatable mental illness it might be unwise to allow him to ever be free and unsupervised in society. But then this country has a penchant for putting people in cages with more people of every age incarcerated then all other developed, democratic nations combined.


does this mean they'll repeal the statuatory laws anytime soon?


Been following this story since Feb. 09 and whether Jordan Brown did or didn't do this has yet to be determined (according to media there seems to be a lot of speculations and assumptions) but we as a society better be VERY afraid when we have state laws (and DA's) that can lock up children this young forever without the chance of ever getting out again. Children this young need help which they will not get in prison. Society, as well as the victim’s, need to remember that these laws also apply to our own children/grandchildren. Don't say it can't happen to your child or your child would not do this or that because if you asked these parents whose children are locked up for life, I am sure they said the same thing.

The laws to lock up children under 18 years old in adult prisons need to change NOW!!!!! Children need to be held accountable for their actions but not on an adult level because they are not adults!!! They cannot be deemed adults in one aspect of the law (crime) and not be in another (voting, drinking, joining the military, they even need parent permission to go on a school field trip, etc….). Locking children up in adult prisons is not a life sentence it is a death sentence to these children especially when we have far worse adults out on our streets. Sentencing children under 18 years old as adults and in some cases locking them up forever with no chance of parole is saying that these children are worse then the child molesters living in our neighborhoods, it is saying they are worse than the drunk driving who serves a few years for killing someone while driving drunk, it is saying that they are worse than the drug dealers who return back to their corner, it says that they are worse than the adults who have killed and have gotten only a few years WITH parole. Think about it!!!!


Here is a quote from the DA that has appeared in several media outlets:

"But Bongivengo said he only had to show that a crime had been committed and that Brown could have committed it."

Does this comment bother anyone?? All the DA has to prove is that Jordan COULD have done it. That is not proof...this is saying he COULD not he DID!!! Would you want your child, mother, father, brother, sister, spouse convicted on this basis that they "could" have done something??? Anybody "COULD" have done anything...does that mean you did???

Jordan has NOT been proven guilty nor has there been solid evidence (according to media) that has linked him to the crime. Why does everyone say Jordan did this when it has not been proven????? So what the gun "smelled" like it was "recently" fired???? Him and his dad target paractice so of course it smelled like that. His clothes had gun residue on them...so what!! He could have easily worn dirty clothes to school...afterall he is 11 and I have a pre-teen boy and he does not care if his clothes are clean or not unless I make him wear clean clothes. Most boys & MEN can relate to this when they were this age.

Again I will say that there are so many speculations and assumptions. I want to see solid proof and not could have's, might have's, etc.....

I have also heard a lot of people say that Jordan's father should get in trouble too for the guns being not locked up in the home with Jordan. Correct me if I am wrong but the victim also lived in that home and she too had 2 small girls in that home so she is equally to blame for negligent parenting.

Then the victims daugther said a couple times that nothing happened that morning then they (DA) say she said she heard a noise. My question is why did SHE change her story???? Does Jordan's fate lie with a 7 year old who can't make up HER mind of what happened????

Unfortunately the victim also proved possible negligent the morning of her death by not being up with those kids getting ready for school. One thing is for sure, it was the one who is getting all the blame (Jordan) who made sure the victims daughter got to school on time. How often had that been happening in that home???

Too many people (including the victims family) are jumping the gun here to convict this child and until I see otherwise, he is innocent and I would not want to answer for convicting him otherwise.....not on the "evendence" we have seen through the media. So I guess I am among the group who feels horrible for him and hopes this all gets sorted out before it is too late for him and a terrible mistake is made on his behalf!!!!

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