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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Month: August 2015

Teens Tried as Adults: Wisconsin’s “Slender Man” Stabbing Case

Many of the cases Bryan Stevenson describes in Just Mercy deal with juveniles being convicted as adults, even at the ages of 13 and 14, and spending most of their adult lives in prison. The 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing case is a current example of such issues taking place here in Wisconsin. A recent ABC News article entitled “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Teens to Be Tried in Adult Court” by Emily Shapiro discusses the August 10 ruling to try Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier in adult court. Geyser and Weier were both 12 years old when they stabbed their friend Payton Leutner 19 times in the woods surrounding Waukesha, Wisconsin on August 31, 2014. Though Leutner suffered serious injuries, she ultimately pulled through and survived the stabbing. Geyser and Weier were arrested shortly after the crime occurred.

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Image from BBC

Shapiro discusses Geyser and Weier’s fascination with “Slender Man,” a fictional character who supposedly stalks children. The two girls believed that their actions would allow them to live with Slender Man in his mansion in the woods of northern Wisconsin.
In a related article entitled “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Not Guilty Pleas Entered for Teens,” Shapiro reports that a Wisconsin court entered not guilty pleas for Geyser and Weier on August 21, 2015. The court did so after the defendants’ attorneys stood mute after being asked to enter pleas, which attorney Maura McMahon described as a way to object to the court’s jurisdiction – in this case, the decision that Geyser and Weier be tried as adults. Geyser and Weier are now both 13 years old, and if they are found guilty of the first-degree attempted homicide charges they face, they could receive sentences of up to 65 years in prison.

To read “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Teens to Be Tried in Adult Court,” click here.

To read “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Not Guilty Pleas Entered for Teens,” click here.

A Look at Solitary Confinement in the United States

A guard handcuffed a prisoner in his cell in the secured housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in California before opening the door. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A guard handcuffed a prisoner in his cell in the secured housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in California before opening the door. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A recent New York Times article, “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life,” by Erica Goode, profiles the work of Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz, and his work interviewing people who have been in solitary confinement in American prisons. Dr. Haney is the first person to study Americans who have been in solitary confinement for a significant amount of their adult lives.

The study includes interviews with 56 prisoners who spent 10-28 years on solitary confinement. His study offers insight into what long term solitary confinement does to mental health. While conducting interviews Haney was struck with the profound sadness of the inmates and concludes that long term solitary confinement leads to “social death.” He partially attributes what he calls “social death” to inmates in solitary confinement not being allowed to make personal phone calls and not being allowed any physical contact with visitors.

Approximately 75,000 American inmates are currently held in solitary confinement. Goode notes in her article that states are starting to reduce the number of people in solitary confinement due to public opinion, budgetary constraints, and lawsuits.

To read “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life” click here.

Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

At the end of July, the U.S. Department of Education announced that some incarcerated Americans will once again have the opportunity to be eligible for Pell Grants. In 1994 federal student aid for people in prison was cut, despite research that shows that education programs in prisons reduce recidivism rates. According to a 2013 study, funded by the Department of Justice, those who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to go back to prison after being released for three years, than those who had no correctional education. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program will test ways to help incarcerated individuals receive Pell Grants and pursue secondary education.

For more information, read the press release from the Department of Education here.

To read the Equal Justice Initiative’s post about this click here.