A former United States senator says he committed some serious crimes as a juvenile, and he supports giving youthful offenders a second chance.
Former Wyoming Sen. Alan K. Simpson made the revelation in a My Voice column published Feb. 11 in the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D.
“I am living proof that youth possess a unique capacity to grow and change,” he stated.
He confesses to burning an abandoned barracks structure with his childhood friends. No one was injured.
He also played dangerous games with .22-caliber rifles, firing at each other “with the goal of coming as close as possible to each other without striking anyone. The bullets we stole from a local hardware store,” he said.
They also shot at mailboxes, someone killed a cow, and they fired at a road grader. “Federal authorities charged us with destroying government property, and I pleaded guilty. I was sentenced to two years of probation and required to make restitution,” he admitted.
“One night, as I arrived very late at a club in Laramie, Wyo., that was popular with African-Americans, I saw a fellow student leaving. It was obvious he had been in a knife fight, so I asked him what happened. He said he had uttered a racial slur, and I responded that if that was his attitude, he was sure in the wrong club. He attacked me, and I shoved him down, just as the police arrived,” he said.
“Police assumed I was responsible for the guy’s knife wounds. When they attempted to arrest me, I belted the officer. How dumb can you get? He responded by striking me with his ‘billy club’. … they took me to jail. My wife of 60 plus years – who was then my girlfriend – refused to bail me out, so I spent the night there. That’s when I decided to marry her. She was … smarter than I was,” he stated.
In his 20s he decided to become a productive member of society. “I began to realize that my attitude was ignorant, stupefying, arrogant, hostile and cocky, and that I no longer wanted to live that way,” he wrote.
He graduated from the University of Wyoming, and then obtained a law degree. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany and then in various state-level attorney positions, as a U.S. commissioner and a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives before elected to the U.S. Senate for 18 years.
“As a result of God’s grace and with the help of others, I have been able to use my experiences to the benefit of my community and our nation,” he stated.
He strongly supports legislation proposed by South Dakota Sen. Craig Tieszen that would ban the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has also recognized that children are ‘constitutionally different’ from adults in a series of rulings…. That court has made clear that because children’s brains are not fully developed, they are less deserving of the most severe punishments,” he said.