Wednesday, March 7, 2018

James Garbarino's "Miller’s Children"

James Garbarino holds the Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and is Senior Faculty Fellow with the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago. He has served as an adviser to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the FBI. He is the author of Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My Twenty Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases and Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

Here Garbarino dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Miller's Children: Why Giving Teenage Killers a Second Chance Matters for All of Us:
Were there to be a movie made of Miller’s Children, I would want the Director to be Martin Scorsese because he is expert at wrestling with the dark and the light of important human issues. I would want Liam Neeson to play my role, because he is not “flashy,” but rather “deep.” Here is the pitch:

The movie opens to a courtroom in 1998. A judge asks the defendant—a 17 year old boy named Mark who murdered “the girl next door” to rise, and then pronounces sentence: “The law in your case requires a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.” Teenage Mark is led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Flash forward to 2018, in an interview room of a prison. Now 48, Mark sits across the table from Liam Neeson, the psychologist who has been asked to help the Court engage in a re-sentencing hearing as the result of a U S Supreme Court ruling that declared mandatory life without possibility of parole for teenagers who commit murder to be unconstitutional. It is up to the judge to impose a new sentence on Mark, a sentence that could range from 20 years (which would mean that Mark would walk free for “time served”) to life without possibility of parole.

Mark and Liam review the life Mark led up to the day he committed the crime for which he has spent more than half his life behind bars—the trauma, the rejection, the rage that propelled him to commit the crime and to be a disruptive and sometimes violent inmate for the first decade of his incarceration—but do not stop there. They talk about how Mark’s life changed when he reached his mid-20s (and his brain matured), how he begun to educate himself through a program of reading, how he began a serious spiritual practice of meditation and prayer, how he became a mentor to younger inmates, and how he participated in a wide range of programs—everything from anger management to substance abuse prevention, from getting his GED to becoming certified as a law clerk. Mark talks about his remorse for what he did and who he was then, and how he appreciates life in a new way now. At the end of the interview the two men embrace to celebrate the progress Mark has made towards leaving the world of darkness and joining the community of light.
Learn more about Miller's Children at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Listening to Killers.

--Marshal Zeringue