Phoebe Prince's Dad Gives Surprising First Interview

Illustration for article titled Phoebe Princes Dad Gives Surprising First Interview

In his first interview after his child's suicide, Phoebe Prince's dad recommended "leniency" for her alleged bullies. Should we care?

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Slate's Emily Bazelon, who last week questioned whether the six teenagers indicted in Prince's suicide had really bullied her to death, spoke with Jeremy Prince, who says that he didn't see his daughter as depressed in her final months, but "what I didn't see was Phoebe in school. Perhaps if I had, that would have made a big difference. It is the great tragedy of my life that I was not there." He doesn't, however, necessarily crave a legal response to this tragedy. He says, "If someone is punished disproportionately to what they've done, that would be wrong," and adds, "You want to see the law acknowledged, and reasonable penalties, but without making an example of them." Summing up his attitude on the subject, he says,

If they confessed to the court and said they were sorry, I'd appeal to the court for total leniency. You can go two ways. You can look to the court for revenge or you can look for leniency. The latter path is mine.

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Prince's view makes sense, especially in light of evidence that not all the teenagers charged bullied his daughter as severely as has been claimed. And it's interesting to hear his perspective, as a parent, on Phoebe's life and on what more he could have done. At the same time, his call for leniency can only mean so much. It's a bit reminiscent of Samantha Geimer's request that the LA courts drop charges against Roman Polanski. The South Hadley teens' crimes, if they did commit them, were less heinous than Polanski's, but the principle is the same — as Tracy Clark-Flory pointed out in our discussion of the Polanski case, victims shouldn't get to decide the fate of criminals. Neither should their families — because as much as we want the justice system to provide closure for the grieving, it also needs to remain impartial. So while Jeremy Prince may be right that the "South Hadley Six" deserve clemency, it's not his call to make.

Image via Slate.

Talking To Phoebe Prince's Father [Slate]

Earlier: Was Bullying Really Behind Phoebe Prince's Suicide?
Should The Victim Decide Polanski's Fate?

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DISCUSSION

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Snacktastic Part III: the Return of the Spatula

I'd say that I agree with Phoebe's father in many ways, particularly when questioning the wisdom of using the justice system to deal with the bullying. It's become more and more of an American thing, to be organized around crime, to treat every social problem as something the penal system needs to resolve. It's frustrating b/c everything is being criminalized—I have said before that I have worked for a decade with court involved kids in the system and the expansion of the penal system—the ideal that so many kids are being pushed from schools into prisons is appalling.

I recognize that by nature of where they live—I went to Hampshire College—I know South Hadley—there is some greater privilege. But for this case to be used as an example of how to deal with bullying by imprisoning kids is so problematic and so blind to the ways that bullying is a community problem—the bystanders are responsible too. The adults need to be aware. It's something that we're all responsible for—not just a few kids that should be taken out of the schools and community and put into prison so that we can feel better about our superior behavior and deny culpability for the things that happen in our society.

If people want to do something for kids like Phoebe Price, thinking about resolving some of the problems and that doesn't come primarily from imprisonment.