Time reports this week that California prosecutors are trying to determine what to do with a 10 year old child who apparently started the "Buckweed" fire in Los Angeles County. The fire destroyed 21 homes and injured three people. Apparently, the fire was started by the boy's "carelessness" while playing with matches. Quite naturally, local residents are in a "less than forgiving mood" and the State of California may be also:
Though too young to be charged as an adult, the boy could still face millions of dollars in fines, removal from his home and possible detention as a ward of the state. For now the boy's fate -- and that of his parents, who would be partially liable for any restitution payments he would have to pay -- rests with Los Angeles County.
I am the last person in the world who would be soft on vandals or criminals, but is there nothing else to do here ? Does justice require that this child be ruined forever, possibly taken from his family ? The family will no doubt wind up financially ruined in any case from legal bills, before we get to any possible punishment, not to mention civil damages. Some folks will have no problem with this: I wonder how many of them have never had the experience of trying to keep up with a 10-year old ?
The punishment awaiting this child and his family seems enormous, but so to is the damage: this child and his damned box of matches caused more devastation and ruin than many a World War II air-raid. But the damage was unintentional. While stupidity should by no means be rewarded, must the child and his family be destroyed ?
My questions are not rhetorical: I genuinely do not know the answers. I'm sure plenty of lawyers will soon supply them.