The Punishment Did Not Fit the Crime: Martin
March 20, 2006
by Isabelle Zehnder
I read a post on a website where someone said
they thought the Florida Juvenile Justice system is one of the best,
that they reform children. But I believe there are plenty of parents
who would disagree with that statement, from what I have read and
from what I have been told. Please feel free to send your comments
Martin Lee Anderson did get into mischief and
did need to be disciplined. But, I believe we can all agree that he
did not deserve to die for his teenage pranks.
The punishment Martin received did not fit the
Martin Lee Anderson’s parents had a choice – to
send their child to a detention center or a boot camp - his mom
chose the boot camp close to home; never did she think that within
hours of his arrival there he would be killed by those who were
there to help him.
Never did she think he would be pulled out of
line, taken by a group of guards, beaten to death while a nurse
watched. Never did she think she would receive the call that all
parents dread, that her child had died. And the shock to learn he
died at the hands of those there to help him.
It is hard to imagine how this mother felt when
she watched a small portion of the video, too broken up to watch the
rest. And how might she have felt when it came time to make the
decision to exhume her baby’s body for a second autopsy? I cannot
even fathom how she must have felt, and I doubt most of us can.
The Palm Beach Post did a Commentary: Boot
Camp Beating Leaves Jarring Image. Here are excerpts from that
[Some things just get to you, straight to
the heart, and this is one of them:
The videotape of 14-year-old Martin Lee
Anderson, knees buckling, falling to the ground, gasping for breath.
Martin Lee Anderson, dying.
Anderson died after running laps and
collapsing at a sheriff's boot camp near Panama City. The boy
apparently complained of shortness of breath, but camp instructors
egged him on, roughly insisting he continue.
A boot camp videotape later obtained by
attorney Benjamin Crump shows the horrible treatment of Martin Lee
"They started doing all these illegal
maneuvers," said Crump, the attorney for the boy's parents. "Knee in
the back. Pressure points behind his ears. Takedowns, which look
like body slams to me."
Crump said it went on for 40 minutes.
Anderson died the next day at the hospital.
The case is back in the news this week after
they exhumed Anderson's body and redid the autopsy. The original
medical examiner's report said Anderson, a healthy boy at 5-feet-9
and 140 pounds, suffered internal bleeding, pulmonary swelling,
lacerations on his scalp and cut and swollen lips. Anderson
was not the perfect child, and it was during a long afternoon at
church ... Anderson, his younger sister, a cousin and two friends
left services in his grandmother's car ... There was an accident,
and police came ... the boy's grandmother didn't want to file
charges, but "they told her she wouldn't get any money for her car
unless she signed the papers," ...
Grand theft auto. All five of them, he says.
Anderson was on probation the night he left his job at Burger King
... clearly against the rules, and when he was caught, he was
charged with trespassing, a violation of his probation ... His
parents ... were given a choice.
They could send him to a juvenile detention
center in Jacksonville or Daytona Beach, or a sheriff's boot camp 10
minutes from his mother's Panhandle home. They chose the boot camp.
"... Anderson liked rap music, made the
honor roll and had recently joined the chess team at school. But he
was a kid, sometimes feisty about the rules. "He was an average
little boy. No greater, no less," ... Crump said. It's hard to watch
the final images of that average little boy.
... Why would someone do these things to a
click here for full article.
"Why Would Anyone Do Something Like that to a
14-Year Old Child"?
And that truly is the question here: why would
anyone do something like that to a 14-year old child, to any child,
for that matter?
Think about this. The punishment did not fit
the crime. There are people in prisons, some on death row for years,
for brutal murders and a myriad of other hideous crimes. There is a
process - they have their day in court and they have a voice. The
death penalty is not easily decided upon and does not occur
Yet Martin was handed a death penalty of sorts.
Why? Because some guards and a nurse who appears to have cared less
what happened to Martin made the decision for him. They beat the
life right out of Martin. Parents will be up in arms, and should be
up in arms, about this issue.
Martin Lee Anderson and his family had no
choice – the state of Florida made the choice they were going to
lock him up for his misdeeds.
When Parents Do Have a Choice
Sometimes things get out of hand and parents
feel they are not equipped to deal with their troubled child or
teen. So they seek outside assistance. Some start, usually, with
their own family doctor or pediatrician, and then move to
therapists, psychiatrists, and so on.
Many professionals believe sending the child
away to an institution is the best solution, rather than seeking
help close to home and looking to repair the family unit. Usually,
when there are problems with a child there are deeper problems
within the family unit that need to be addressed. Sending a child
hundreds or thousands of miles away from the family does not seem to
be the solution.
"Building Families Up" or "Tearing Families
Many programs tout they build families up. But
time and time again parents and children have indicated it served to
tear their families apart. Typically, by the time a family is ready
to take such a drastic step as to send their child away to a
facility hundreds or thousands of miles from home to live with
complete strangers, sometimes going to such extremes as hiring a
teen "escort" service to basically abduct their child from their bed
in the middle of the night, something is terribly wrong.
But does the problem lie only with the child or
teen who is acting out? Or do deeper problems lie within the home
environment that so desperately need repair? Most often times the
latter is the case. It seems unfair that the child is the one
removed from the home and placed into an environment where he or she
loses virtually all of his or her rights. Where they are basically
locked up and where they lose contact with the outside world.
I think that most people who have been affected
by this industry in a negative way, and who are well aware of the
abusive practices that occur, are going to speak out and want
reform. The children deserve our support. It is for the children who
have been abused, the children who have been neglected, and the
children who have died that we voice our concerns.
Children, once locked behind closed doors, have
no voice so it is incumbent upon us to be their voice.