This week, we’re looking at Chapters 5-8, but please feel free to continue talking about last week’s questions if something catches your attention. You’re welcome to jump in on any angle of the discussion, no matter where you are in the reading.
As you can see, this book takes an unflinching look at some challenging subjects — justice, race, crime, capital punishment — so here’s a little side note to anyone who might be reading and struggling with the material for any reason. There are many places on the Internet for heated debates, but The Rabbit Room isn’t one of them. We hope you feel the freedom to dialogue without fear. We hope you’ll find this a place for civil and challenging conversations, and we want this to be a welcoming space for you, no matter where you’re coming from.
And now, on to this week’s reading…
“I feel like they done put me on death row, too. What do we tell these children about how to stay out of harm’s way when you can be at your own house, minding your own business, surrounded by your entire family, and they still put some murder on you that you ain’t do and send you to death row?”
Walter’s sister Armelia vocalizes the family’s pain and fears, and asks what they are supposed to tell their children. (p 93) How would you answer her? What narratives have you believed about police, crime, and the justice system?
I held him and told him as gently as I could, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. ” I’d never held anyone who gripped me as tightly as that child or who cried as hard or as long… When I left the jail, I was more angry than sad. I kept asking myself, “Who is responsible for this? How could we ever allow this?”
Who is the “we” who caused Charlie’s abuse? (124) Where are we in the “we”?
Many poor and minority victims complained that they were not getting calls or support from local police and prosecutors. Many weren’t included in the conversations about whether a plea bargain was acceptable or what sentence was appropriate… The expansion of victim’s rights ultimately made formal what had always been true: Some victims are more protected and valued than others.
Why are some victims more protected and valued than others? (p 143) What needs to change in order for victims to get the support they need?
Most adults convicted of the kinds of crimes with which Trina, Ian, and Antonio were charged are not sentenced to life imprisonment without parole… Children who commit serious crimes long have been vulnerable to adult prosecution and punishment in many states, but the development of juvenile justice systems has meant the most child offenders were sent to juvenile detention facilities.
What are the laws in your state regarding juvenile offenders? Can you recall any local cases of children being tried in adult courts? Where are those kids now?
One more thing: In Chapter 5, Stevenson references W. E. B. Du Bois’ short story “Of the Coming of John.” You can find the text and audio of the story here, if you’d like to read it.
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Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.