We have observed the public discourse surrounding the case of Mizella Robinson with increasing unease. A sampling of the more common sentiments expressed on Facebook during Sheriff Al Neinhuis’s press conference in March includes: “If this kid did it to get out of school, she’ll sure be out of school now for a very long time”; “You play, you pay”; “Charge her as an adult and to the fullest extent. #Mizella4Prison”. These are the ragings of an angry mob, not a healthy civic debate.
At that same press conference, public officials stated their intent to, in essence, make an example of Miss Robinson – a 17-year-old child, it bears repeating. She is to be prosecuted as an adult, and faces a significant jail sentence that will irrevocably destroy her life. But what does this accomplish? Is the mere hope that it will act as a deterrent really sufficient justification for such harsh treatment? No one was physically harmed, nor was physical harm even the intent of her crimes. Incarceration is an expensive undertaking, and will doom this young woman to a life of otherness and struggle. There is another path.
As alumni of Central High School, we call for leniency. The heavy emotions associated with this ordeal have tipped the scales of justice against Miss Robinson. The long-term ruin of this child’s life is a grave consequence. In our estimation, it far exceeds any benefit gleaned by a heavy-handed approach to her prosecution and sentencing. If it is healing we seek, rather than our own emotional catharsis, we would be better served by addressing the causes of these unfortunate incidents than by “throwing the book” at the symptoms and hoping it deters future wrongdoers.
Floridians for a Democratic Society