Does the Time Fit the Crime? This is a call to action, how much do we actually know about the California Juvenile Justice system? Have we given up on today’s youth? There are more than 2,500 juvenile offender’s states wide that have been sentenced to life in prison or life without parole. They are sent to adult court in which they were convicted for their crimes. This is costing California tax payers 2. 5 million dollars a year to house each offender, and approximately 252,000 a year per youth in the CYA (Krinsky, Pierce, Woodford,p1;Kita,p1).
How does this affect their psychological development? Of the different races which is most effected? Is it teaching them to be better individuals or better criminals? What effects does it have on the youth’s family? Is justice being served? As of today there are 300 youth juveniles incarcerated in the state of California that have been given life or life without parole. Does race, social, and environmental factors play a role in the sentencing phase? Does the time fit the crime? Is it appropriate for juveniles to be sentenced as adults?
The Juvenile Justice Court System was designed and dedicated to the adjudication of crimes committed by juvenile youth offenders. To be over seen by the Los Angeles Superior Court Division of Juvenile Courts (Shouselaw). Their sole purpose and goal is the rehabilitation of youth offenders. In 1943 the state of California opened CYA as a reform school; but today it functions similar to the adult prisons today (Kita, p1). Youth that are prosecuted in adult court are moved out of CYA at 18 and sent to adult prison to serve the reminder of their time (Kita, p1).
Fewer juvenile offenders are being committed to CYA, and more are being sent directly to adult prison. “ Despite declines in juvenile confinement over the last decade, California still has the 10th highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the nation (271 per 100,000) and the fifth highest White-Black racial disparity: Black children are incarcerated at 8. 5 times the rate of White children” (Children Defense Fund).
“ There are many factors and statistics used in the arguments for and against juvenile sentences of life without parole (LWOP), however the statistics involving he much higher percentage, of blacks serving life sentences than whites are very rarely mentioned” (Bell,p. 2). This is further data that supports the argument that black youth has the highest ratio of incarceration. The legislature is considering bill SB399 which would allow a second chance opportunity, this shows that the state of California Juvenile System is in need of reform and structuring. Without SB399 there isn’t any way to revisit these sentences. (Krinsky, Pierce, Woodford, p. 2). What immediate changes need to take place today to reduce the number of youths, being incarceration?
According to the group Reforming the Juvenile Justice System, the United States is the only country in the world that sentences young people to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed when they were teenagers (RJJS). In California approximately 300 youth have been given this sentence – a sentence to die in prison for mistakes they made during adolescence. According to “Human Rights Watch estimates, a majority of these young people (59 percent) were first time offenders, and almost half (45 percent) were convicted of murder but were not the ones who actually committed the murder” (RJJS).
What can we do as a society and community to help carve the problem within our communities to ensure our youth are being treated fairly in the juvenile system? There are several problems and issues that the juvenile justice systems face today. Allegations of mistreatment, abuse, excessive force, 23 hour confinement in their cells, locking juveniles in cages at school, not providing adequate medical and mental health services, and perpetuation of gang related violence among the youth offenders. (Shouselaw,p.? ). We as a society have to raise the question?
How have these problems and issues gone unaddressed for so long? Who do we hold accountable for these allegations? Therefore, asking how this effects their psychological development and how much of it impacts their social interactions and behavior. Youth advocates have argued that juvenile youth offenders’ brains are not mature enough to fully understand the seriousness of their crimes they’ve been accused of. The organization CDFCA has stated that: “Adolescent brain development research has helped us understand the ways that youth are fundamentally different from adults.
With the prefrontal lobe of the brain still developing throughout the teenage years, adolescents have more difficulty processing information, making logical in-the-moment decisions, weighing long-term consequences, and avoiding peer pressure. Given this research in adolescent brain development, policymakers and even the Supreme Court have recognized that youth are less culpable than adults for their actions and more likely to be rehabilitated.
The Children’s Defense Fund – CA believes strongly that policies around incarceration and sentencing should reflect these developmental differences, and that youth should be kept out of the adult criminal justice system and given the opportunity for rehabilitation” (RJJS,p. 1). Subsequently, providing the evidence of how broken the juvenile system truly is, Richard A. Mendel wrote, “We now have overwhelming evidence showing that wholesale incarceration of juvenile offenders is a counterproductive public policy” (Mendel, p. 1) Stating that the current juvenile justice system.
Which relies heavily on mass incarceration of teen offenders, is badly broken? The violence and abuse within youth facilities is bad enough, but these institutions also fail to rehabilitate the youth within them. (Mendel, p. 1) Adding reinforcement that something must be done immediately to save our youth; leaving us to wonder how these effects will ultimately shape their lives for the better or the worst. There is a sense of hopelessness and despair that illuminates over these juveniles. Are the sentences handed down in these cases justified?
Has justice being served in these cases? Supports of juvenile reform has provided data and research that back their claims that black youth are being sentence to much long terms than any of other race. The Human Rights Watch organization conducted research in California and found that there is discrimination when sentencing black youth offenders: ” The state’s application of the law is also unjust. Eighty-five percent of youth sentenced to life without parole are people of color, with 75 percent of all cases in California being African American or Hispanic youth.
African American youth are sentenced to life without parole at a rate that is 18. 3 times the rate for whites. Hispanic youth in California are sentenced to life without parole at a rate that is five times the rate of white youth in the state California has the worst record in the country for racially disproportionate sentencing. In California, African American youth are sentenced to life without parole at rates that suggest unequal treatment before sentencing courts. This unequal treatment by sentencing courts cannot be explained only by white and African
American youths’ differential involvement in crime” (HRWO,p. 1). In addition to discrimination they also found that “In California alone, more than half of the youth sentenced are first time offenders with no previous criminal record. The Human Rights Watch survey of these inmates also found that many had not actually committed the murder and that their adult codefendants actually received a lesser sentence” (HRWO,p1). Therefore, pointing out that these youth offenders did not have adequate representation.
The organization Human Rights Watch wrote: “Poor legal representation often compromises a just outcome in juvenile life without parole cases. Sending Approximately 227 youth have been sentenced to die in California’s prisons. They have not been sentenced to death: the death penalty was found unconstitutional for juveniles by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. Instead, these young people have been sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives, with no opportunity for parole and no chance for release.
Forty-five percent of youth reported that they were held legally responsible for a murder committed by someone else. In California, the vast majority of those 17 years old and younger sentenced to life without the possibility of parole was convicted of murder. Showing that nationally 59 percent of youth sentenced to life without paroles are first-time offenders, without single juvenile court adjudication on their records” (HRWO, p1-3. ). Furthermore, this research support their claims that race, social, and environment factors play a major role in sentencing.
Providing addition evidence that black and Latino juveniles are treated unfairly and justice is not being served. In conclusion, the California Juvenile Justice System is in dire need of reform. In January of this year Govern Jerry Brown, proposed is plan to end the juvenile justice division by March 2015(sfgate. com). Thus answering the questions posed there are a great deal, of problems and issues that must be addressed immediately. Like the mass incarceration of youth juveniles and mishandling of sentencing in these cases.
And the harsh unfair life sentences or life without parole, which will have long term effects on their psychological development, which will impact their social and behavior interactions. This will limit their chance of ever being release. And give them an opportunity to start over with a clean slide. Furthermore, leaven a profound impact on the lives of their families. Shedding light on a decade of unfair inappropriate actions on behave of the courts. In which justice was not served in any of the cases.