This essay, by a California juvenile inmate named Gonzalo, was originally published by The Beat Within, a juvenile justice system writing workshop, which has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.
This being my first entry, allow me to enter with the regular formalities, which are love and respect. I'm 16 years old, I've been in this detention center since I was 14. I've fallen to Proposition 21, Prop 21 being an initiative passed in March of 2000, which, in essence, makes it easier to try juveniles as adults. This is the subject I want to put in front of you, The Beat Within readers.
I am one of many, not only in my county, which this system has basically lost hope in and decided to punish us further for our transgressions instead of trying to help us change. Being in the situation I am in, my eyes have become witness to what this juvenile injustice has done to myself and my peers and has saturated me with a will to abolish Proposition 21.
Writing about this issue is one of my first steps towards bringing an end to Prop 21 and I soon move on to DJJ (formally known as CYA) and then to prison, I will be able to take lengthier steps in my fight against this juvenile injustice.
Back in 2000, the voters of California had a solid enough idea in passing Proposition 21, this idea being that it would bring about an end or at least reduce significantly gang crimes by juveniles and adults alike.
We are now in the year 2014, skyrocketing into the year 2015 and gang crimes by juveniles has shown no sign of slowing down. It is time that people accept that this initiative is not working, but only sinking our communities further. Instead of wasting all the money it takes to house a person in prison per year, which is approximately $240,000, why don't we stop destroying the youth and help them by directing these funds into more lucrative means to help prevent them from committing crimes?
If the state is willing to spend such a large amount of money on one person per year after they have committed a crime, is it not reasonable that the state should be willing to spend these funds to prevent the youth from committing these crimes, the crimes that the people of California proclaim to be so sick of, by enhancing after school programs, sports in school, programs to instill in us vocational skills and more outreach work out in the communities to better interact with the youth and give them more chances to encounter positive experiences to fill them with better desires and to give them something else to reach out to instead of gangs?
I'm tired of seeing my peers, not only in my county, being sent to prison with nothing but time to become more susceptible to the vices of the prison world and become more criminally sophisticated. How is this going to help our communities? The way to help our communities is not by excessive punishment, it is by helping the youth before they start committing crimes and even after they transgressed, you have to put time, money and effort in them to redirect them to better paths.
The only thing I will not tire of is in my strive to see Prop 21 in a filing drawer where all the failed projects are put away. There is much more, but I pray that you, The Beat Within readers, take-in this writing and ponder on it and maybe even take up your own pencil in this struggle to fix the juvenile injustice.
It is true that some of the crimes committed by the youth are terrible, but trying minors as adults is no-less terrible, especially when there are better ways to come at crimes by juveniles, the main one being prevention.
To all my pending adult court minors out there, stay up and never lose hope. Keep that faith in Jesus.