Teen gets 18-months to recognize that crime does not pay
According to the Associated Press, Mychal Bell, one of the teenagers charged in the "Jena Six" controversy, was ordered back to prison yesterday. The facts seem a bit sketchy, however, the report says that Bell was sentenced to 18 months in jail for violation of probation on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property for an incident that occurred prior to the now infamous fight that landed him in adult prison.
In the event you somehow missed the national media coverage over the past few months, Bell and five other teens – The Jena Six– were arrested as a result of a fight stemming from nooses hung on a tree known as a hangout for whites only. Bell was originally charged as an adult with attempted murder. The white kids were not prosecuted. The case drew over 30,000 demonstrators to the tiny town of Jena, LA to protest the unjust treatment. The public outcry resulted in Bell's conviction being thrown out and sent to juvenile court.
The quick response this week on the heels of Bell's recent release from adult prison is likely a power move to send a message that officials will not allow the demands of outsiders to control what goes on in Jena. However, even though the timing could be a direct response to Bell's release and encompass a element of revenge for being forced to send the teen back to juvenile court, the process is not out of the ordinary. If someone on probation or parole commits a crime, they violated the terms of their release. As for the punishment, since the facts of the case are not public knowledge, it would be reckless for people to assume that the sentence itself was in retaliation.
Although the courts - especially the juvenile court system – need to find alternatives to jail, Mychal Bell must suffer the consequences for his wrong choices. I am not privy his prior convictions, so I can't comment on whether the recent sentence is harsh. I do know that Mychal Bell and the rest of the youth around the world watching this case unfold, need to know that it is incorrect, unlawful and unacceptable to use violence as a solution to any problem. Given the crime pandemic in the Black community, it is important for young people see first-hand that there are consequences for bad acts and no one should get a pass. It is negligent to say anything otherwise.
Don't get me wrong. I went to Jena on Sept. 20, 2007. I signed petitions, blogged about it, created email campaigns, and advocated on behalf of the Jena 6. The charges against the teenagers were harsh and unjust. I will continue to protest the criminalization of youth, especially people of color. I will fight against the mass incarceration fueled by the senseless war on drugs. But, I will never condone violence.
While national attention is focused on the extreme bias in the Jena Six case, we need to challenge the unjust criminal justice system. It is also the ideal time to put our youth on notice that the black community will not accept criminal behavior.
In the case of Mychal Bell, the punishment for the altercation related to the nooses did not fit the crime. However, he did commit a crime and I hope that over the next 18 months, Bell realizes that crime does not pay.