There are many reasons to feel disgust over a judge in a juvenile court in Fort Worth, Texas, sentencing 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years of probation for killing four pedestrians and paralyzing his friend while driving drunk this summer.
Leading up to the tragedy that killed Breanna Mitchell (aged 24), Hollie Boyles (42) and Shelby Boyles (21) and Brian Jennings (43), Couch and a group of friends stole alcohol from a Walmart nearby. At the time of the crash, he was driving a pickup owned by Cleburne Sheet Metal, his father's company. Couch had seven passengers in his truck and a blood-alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit in Texas. He also had valium in his system. Two of his passengers were severely injured, including Sergio Molina, who suffered brain damage that has left him with blinking as his only form of communication.
Couch has never denied that he was driving drunk that night, nor that he killed those people. Instead, the defense argued that Couch grew up in a family that was dysfunctional, in part because of its wealth, and that he deserved therapy, not incarceration.
During the court trial, the defense called psychologist G Dick Miller as main witness. He gave now-infamous testimony. Miller diagnosed Couch as suffering from "affluenza" where his parents' wealth fixed problems in their lives. Miller explained it this way:
The teen never learned to say that you're sorry if you hurt someone. If you hurt someone, you sent him money.
He said that Couch had an emotional age of 12 and that both of Couch's parents failed him. Miller continued:
He never learned that sometimes you don't get your way. He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.
According to Miller, Couch was left to raise himself in a consequence-free environment. Miller advocated for Couch to receive therapy and cease contact with his parents.
The prosecutors had asked for Couch to receive 20 years in prison. Instead and as a result of the defense's argument, Judge Jean Boyd ordered Couch to a long-term, in-patient facility for therapy, no contact with his parents, and 10-years probation. His attorneys have stated that his parents have offered to pay for him to do his in-patient therapy at a center in Southern California that costs $450,000 a year. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Judge Boyd said that "she is familiar with programs available in the Texas juvenile justice system and is aware that he might not get the kind of intensive therapy in a state-run program that he could receive at the California facility suggested by his attorneys. Boyd said she had sentenced other teens to state programs but they never actually got into those programs."
Ethan Couch, therefore, will spend no time behind bars for killing four people and paralyzing another despite admitting guilt and despite the fact that the diagnosis the defense centered their case around – that of "affluenza" – is not even recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an actual mental illness. On top of it, it appears that the judge found therapy and probation to be valid because his parents could pay for an expensive center and that he would not have to rely on the state programs. In summary, Couch got off because he comes from a wealthy family.
But there is something else going on here. It matters that Judge Boyd saw Couch as someone that not only could be rehabilitated but whom it was worth it to rehabilitate. The vast majority of kids in the juvenile justice facilities are youth of color, with only 18% of the population described as "anglo" (compare that to the fact that 44% of Texas' population of 26 million is "white" according to the latest census; Couch is white). Only 14% have parents who are still married, 52% need treatment for a capital or seriously violent crime, 48% for mental illness, and 78% for drug and/or alcohol abuse. Other than being wealthy and white, Couch and his crime match the majority of offenders in juvenile justice facilities in Texas.
There is also the point that Judge Boyd believed that Couch's chance of good rehabilitation would be at a wealthy, private, out-of-state facility.This is especially striking in Texas, a state known much more for its ever-growing privatized prison-industrial complex than its compassion for prisoners. Just this year, the Texas legislature slashed the budget of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department by $23m (despite the state having a surplus of funds). There is also an on-going battle over the possible closure of one of its health facilities for mentally ill juvenile offenders, both because of years of violence and abuse as well as being far from treatment providers. The juvenile criminal system is bad enough that one writer at the Dallas Observer asked in response to this case, "Because we condemn everybody else's kid to violent prisons, does that mean it's unjust to let any one kid go?"
Many of these problems in treating the mental health of criminals are mirrored in the adult criminal population in Texas. A 2009 report from the University of Texas showed that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) had a total of 112 facilities, only four of which were for the psychiatric care of the prisoners. According to the TDCJ's 2012 statistical report, of the 152,000 prisoners "on hand", only 3,400 were in SAFPF, or a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility which has an "intensive six-month therapeutic community program (nine-month program for offenders with special needs)". Of the 2,600 men in those facilities, 42% are white (pdf) despite accounting for just 30% (pdf) of the overall prison population.
And Texas is just a microcosm of a larger problem throughout the US. Private prisons are growing, earning more and more money, and lobbying politicians to call for even more private prisons. Mass incarceration, of which the US is the global leader (pdf), is leading to more and more mentally ill people entering prison. It appears that only criminals like Couch – those who can afford to pay their way through expensive, private rehabilitation and therapy programs – have access to a system that has a chance of working in their favor. If judges know how poor the system is for the mentally ill, as Judge Boyd implies in her remarks regarding Texas, does that mean that they see the wealthy as more likely to be worthy of attempting true rehabilitation? Worse, does that mean even more lenient sentences for the rich?
Judge Boyd has now participated in the very cycle that she wants to break: instead of Couch having to face the tough consequences of the horrific crime he committed, his wealth has once again padded his way. She has reinforced the fact that being very wealthy and throwing money at a problem will allow you to avoid the punishments that your peers who do not have the same resources as you cannot.
Wealth literally bought this kid's way out of prison and into a facility that can help him. The tragedy this case highlights is all the children who cannot do that and will instead enter an ever-growing, ever-problematic US criminal system that will most likely fail them – and us.
Obesity topics for research paper
Obesity is a lifestyle disease that is on the rise in America and most other developed countries the world over. What makes obesity such a serious menace is the fact that it is the leading cause of tens of opportunistic fatal diseases which include hypertension, cancer, and heart failure. The overreliance on technology has reduced the mobility of children and this coupled with comfort eating has led to a new phenomenon – the upsurge of childhood obesity. This has led to the rise of children affected with diseases that were initially thought of as diseases for adults. There is therefore dire need to examine this and take some precautionary steps to curb it.
8 obesity topics for research paper writing
The following are some good obesity topics for research paper that you can use to write your term paper:
- The role of genes in childhood obesity – there is some genetic research that has sought to link obesity to genetic makeup. You could do a research paper on this to try to find out to what extent this is true and if true, to what extent to influences the weight of new born babies, toddlers as well as adults
- There is an increase in childhood obesity in America – you can take this as the main theme for your term paper. Write on why there is this increase and you can try to draw a contrast with one or two other countries that are either at per or have no childhood obesity crisis.
- The effects of obesity – research has established a number of serious health implications of childhood obesity not only on the child but also later on in life. You can do a research paper that seeks to establish this link and investigate how adults are affected as a result of their childhood overweight issues.
- Obesity prevention in children – prevention is always better than cure. You can do a study on the best mechanisms that can be employed to prevent childhood obesity
- Healthy eating – this is another interesting topic worth pursuing. Obesity is largely as a result of poor eating habits so you can do a research paper on the healthy eating options for children. Could it be that the problem of obesity is because children have very few healthy eating options today?
- Inactivity – inactivity, especially among Children is a serious challenge today. Children often prefer to play video games as opposed to going outside and playing with other kids. This somewhat leads to obesity and this would also be a great research topic on obesity
- Societal stigma – obesity is not a disability but obese children go through the same stigmatization that disabled people do. How does society stigmatize obesity and how can this be checked?
- Obesity and depression – some experts argue that there is a link between obesity and depression. This would also make for a good research topic as you seek to either validate or invalidate these assertions.
Obesity topics for research paper writing and sample thesis statements
Once you have settled on a good research topic, the next thing you want to form is a strong thesis statement. A weak statement will result in a weak paper so you want to give it your best. Here are two examples of some good thesis statements:
The impact of obesity in children:
Obesity has far-reaching ramifications as it can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of a child besides commutating to chronic issues in adulthood.
What causes obesity?
Obesity is largely a lifestyle disease and its two largest causes in both children and adults are poor eating habits and inactivity.
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