If Assistant State's Attorney Rod Drobinski persists in prosecuting Jeremie Dalin, 17, and Dalin is sentenced to 15 years in prison upon his conviction for making a terrorist threat, the Lake County state's attorney's office will have made an irreparable mistake.
As reported in the newspapers, federal authorities declined to prosecute because Dalin is considered a juvenile under federal law. An adolescent's brain does not change organically from a juvenile to an adult merely on the whim of any government agency.
Officials have continually ignored the signs of danger and distress in teens and older adolescents such as the young man responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. While on the other hand, authorities are ready to dispose of Dalin, a teenage boy who made a verbal threat posted on the Internet, but who withdrew the message when he realized the ramifications of his actions.
Dalin should have known better, but it is likely he could not fathom the consequences of his actions until well after he had posted the threat. According to Dr. David Fassler, a psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, because of the unique make up of teenagers' brains, "particularly when confronted with stressful or emotional decisions, they are more likely to act impulsively, on instinct, without fully understanding or analyzing the consequences of their actions."
Rather than sitting in prison for 15 years, Dalin can learn in more productive ways what he did was wrong.
Intervention and consequences other than prison would benefit not only Dalin but also society as a whole. If he spends 15 years in jail with the hardest criminals, he will return to us as a hardened criminal, bitter, lost and a very real danger to society.
Assistant State's Attorney Drobinski and his office should deal with Dalin as a malleable adolescent who can learn from his infraction. Teenagers do all sorts of crazy things that cause no physical harm to anyone, so to imprison Dalin, a child who made a stupid mistake, would be an absurd tragedy.
Mary E. Keenan