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'I took someone's life. I know what I did - but I've changed': Killers defiantly ask for forgiveness over crimes they committed as young men after being condemned to life behind bars
- Controversial documentary examines two juvenile offenders with life in prison
- Questions of punishment and rehabilitation served to young violent offenders
- Anthony Rolon and Joshua Dohan both 17 when sent to maximum security prison
- 'I've changed and I'm not the same individual,' Rolon claims. 'But I feel ashamed'
The question of how we balance appropriate law, order and punishment to some of the nation's youngest and most violent offenders has arisen again in a controversial documentary program.
Amid demands for tougher sentencing are the more challenging questions of how we also uphold the possibility of rehabilitation for offenders who were children at the time of their crimes.
Following the story of two separate and now adult juvenile offenders, the program asks: How much punishment is enough? And do criminals deserve a second chance after decades behind bars?
Anthony Rolon was sent to a maximum prison at the age of 17.
Rolon, a small-time drug-dealer, murdered a 20-year-old man by stabbing him to death with a knife from his pocket over an argument.
His lawyer described the attack as a 'spur of the moment' decision.
Juvenile advocate Joshua Dohan argued it was an example of 'hot cognition', or an unplanned and out of control attack.
’I killed Bobby Botelho,’ Mr. Roland tells the PBS Frontline program which aired on ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night.
’I took someone’s life. I do not back down from that and take full responsibility for my actions at all. I know what I did,’ Roland said.
‘I’ve changed and I’m not the same individual’.
Joe Donovan was also 17 at the time. He was convicted for holding criminal resonsibility over punching an MIT college student who later died from a stab wound inflicted by another offender.
Both prisoners were sentenced to life behind bars in U.S. prisons for crimes they committed when they were teenagers.
The program follows the pair as they beg for forgivenes, asking the courts and the victim’s family to give him a second chance.
’There has been the recognition that kids should have the opportunity at some time to demonstrate growth and maturity,’ Marsha Levick from the Juvenile Law Center explained.
But simultaneously she acknowledges the fear within a community when a violent offender is released into a neighborhood.
’There are some people who should never be released,’ argues District Attorney Timothy Cruz.
’There are some crimes, in my opinion, that are deleterious to our community that individuals deserve to go to jail for life.’
Cruz argues that such individuals, no matter their age, made a choice to commit violent crimes.
The program discusses research which has pointed towards differences in developmental maturity between juvenile and adult offenders.
It also raises the question of youth culpability and challenges our tendency to opt for punitive, rather than a preventative response to violent crime.
The age-old question of circumstantial responsibility is played out as proponents from either side debate the significance of offender backgrounds plagued with drug abuse, abandonment, poverty and family dysfunction.
The families of the victims, of course, are also wont to have fairly strong views on the matter.
Emotionally charged parole hearings reveal the confrontations between convicted criminals and the families who have lost loved ones to their crimes.
The case poses profound questions around the idea of mandatory sentencing, and prompts consideration over whether these prisoners should be given a second chance at life.
Four Corners’ Second Chance Kids aired on Monday 25th June at 8:30 pm on the ABC.