Juvenile Punishment

An important question at hand is how juvenile crime must be punished. Right now most juvеnilе crimе casеs arе currеntly handlеd by thе juvеnilе court systеm. If givеn pеrmission, juvеnilеs can bе triеd as adults, but currеnt laws prohibit juvеnilеs from bеing housеd with adult criminals. So most juvеnilеs convictеd as adults arе housеd in juvеnilе facility until thеy rеach thе agе of 18. Thеrе arе about 100,000 juvеnilе offеndеrs annually who arе on probation in California. Thе majority of thеsе offеndеrs arе on formal probation, which mеans that thеy appеar in front of court to rеsolvе thеir casеs.

In most informal casе, thеy not nееd to appеar in front of thе court, bеcausе thе probation dеpartmеnt is ablе to dirеctly imposе nееdеd sanctions. Aftеr thе complеtion of informal probation, juvеnilеs havе thеir rеcords wipеd clеan. For proposition 21 the government has come up with an initiative, which would try offenders as adults rather than juvenile. Proposition 21 would require juvenile offenders 14 years or older to be charged as adults. It would eliminate informal probation, and further limit confidentiality for juveniles who are charged with or convicted of specified felonies.

Proposition would require that certain juvenile crime offenders be held in a local or state correctional facilities rather than in juvenile facilities. Prop. 21 would designate certain crimes as violent and serious, thereby making offenders subject to longer sentences. These are the ideas of Proposition 21, but as with many propositions, it does not come cheap. Right now the cost of vandalism, in order for it to be a felony is fifty thousand dollars. So this means that if a person just happens to write, “I love Judy” on a tree, it will be considered a felony offense and the teenager will be taken to jail.

This also means that the three strikes law is going to be in more use because of the fact that more felonies are going to be committed. If a person steels a pack of gum and gets caught that will be considered a strike because it would be a felony. Proposition 21 was also established to supposedly make communities safer, but in reality it is doing nothing for them. This proposition is not going to stop kids from joining gangs or even committing crimes. It’s a fact that, as a child, a person does many immature things that he/she regrets in the future.

Some of these kids go a little overboard but recuperate through rehabilitation. Between 1983 and 1998 crimes, such as robberies, rapes, and assaults have risen an outstanding 60. 6% and will continue to rise unless some sort of action is taken to stop this type of behavior. Most people would agree that such crimes should not go unpunished and that incarceration is one of the only answers for people who commit these crimes. So then why are so many people against proposition twenty-one? Simple, people feel that juveniles do not have the ability to think like adults and therefore, should not be tried as adults.

Along with this opinion, many believe that juveniles should be educated and rehabilitated rather than simply be placed behind bars. To an extent, these opinions may have some truth in them, but what about cases like Maggie Elvey’s, a woman who lost her husband because a fifteen year old beat him to death with a steel pipe. Some may say that this is a very uncommon situation and is therefore not relevant to the matter. Sadly however, there are many other cases that fit the same extremity as this one, which have been committed by people under the age of eighteen.

In Maggie’s case, the juvenile who killed her husband will be free on his twenty-fifth birthday, and will not have a criminal record. Let’s face it, juvenile crime has gone on too long, and though it is sad that parents are not teaching their children morality and respect now days, if something is not done about it, it will only get worse. On a personal note, I can think of many examples of juveniles around my neighborhood who have committed crimes and have “beat” the system because of their age.

Only a few weeks ago a youth in my area was caught robbing a liquor store at gunpoint, and now he/she is roaming the streets freely, while the owner of the liquor store is most likely living in fear that the same incident will happen again. Another violent case broke out when a juvenile beat another child over the head with a two-by-four, and yet, only minor actions were taken to ensure this offenders’ punishment. I agree that educational programs and rehabilitation centers are still important, but without some sort of fear of punishment, these programs themselves will do nothing for repeating juvenile offenders.

A good reason why Proposition 21 will benefit the better of the communities in California is because juvenile records will no longer be sealed or confidential. All records of crimes and felonies that these juveniles have committed will be open to the public. This means that anyone who needs to get a record check on a juvenile will be able to see his or her criminal records. It is stated that proposition 21 “allows the public, including schools and employers, to review juvenile court records by removing “confidentiality” rules that permit youth offenders to go back to school or find jobs with out being labeled a criminal for life.

” Employers and other people who need to view these records should be able to see what kind of person they are hiring or allowing into their school, and with this proposition, they shall be able to. At this previous moment, only the records of juveniles with serious felonies are not sealed or confidential. For the rest of the juveniles who have committed minor crimes, there is no record of the crime committed after a completion of an informal probation, and the society needs to be protected from all juveniles who have committed any kind of crimes. Good students should be protected from these criminals by not having to go to school with them.

Employers should be able to hire clean-cut employees with no criminal history. We need to keep the juveniles with criminal histories out of our systems in order to be able to better our society. This may seem like a very harsh punishment on juvenile delinquents because employers and other authorities will be able to view them as criminals, but there shouldn’t be any more shielding for juveniles. If a person commits a crime, he/she should face the consequences. This is only a minor punishment that these juvenile delinquents have to face considering the damages that they’ve done to society.

If we implement more prevention programs, we can be able to keep the youth out of our criminal system. We need to teach them the right ways and not the wrong ways. Prevention programs are estimated to be at least twice as effective and much cheaper than laws to increase incarceration. One study shows that an estimated 60 crimes were prevented annually per $1 million spent on 3 strikes laws, an estimated 258 were prevented per $1 million spent on graduation incentives and an estimated 157 crimes were prevented with the same amount invested in parent training.

It is true that California spends about $4 billion a year on prisons. Since 1984, the state added 21 prisons and only one university campus. A prison guard now makes about $51,000 a year, compared to $41,000 of a first year professor in the California university system. If passed, Proposition 21 will result in one-time costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars and yearly costs of tens of millions of dollars for local governments. This means that our taxes will rise and it will cause the local governments to take funds away from other projects in their locality.

Proposition 21, if passed will take a lot of money away from California’s fund for social benefits like youth violence and intervention programs and most importantly, the money for education which can build new higher learning institutions. We want money to be spent on more important issues like education and prevention programs.


1. American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Vote No On Prop 21. Los Angeles, California: 2000. 2. Association of Community Based Gang Intervention Workers. Association Factsheet. Los Angeles, California: 2000.