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Juvenile Crime Trying Time


A protester doesn't want Andy to be tried as an adult

If kids commit a crime, should they be treated like a kid or like an adult when it comes to deciding their punishment? A question like this is especially important when you are talking about violent crimes like school shootings. For instance, a recent shooting happened in Santee, California. Fifteen-year-old Andy Williams is accused of killing two students and wounding 15 others after opening fire in his high school. What should his punishment be?


Andy's lawyers are trying to get him tried in court as a juvenile in California. However, the court has already decided it will try him as an adult. The lawyers want that decision reversed, so that Andy would get a less severe punishment. Many people feel the same way Andy's lawyers do, that children should not be tried as adults. When I went by the courthouse where Andy's fate will be decided, many protesters were there. One of them told news reporters "He is a child. How can we treat him as an adult when he is not an adult?"


Juvenile Hall for a day


Normally, kids go to juvenile courts. The reason is that society sees children differently than adults. Children might not always understand how serious there actions are, like committing a crime, so they are not punished as badly if they do something like this. Another reason for less punishment is that kids stand a better chance of turning good in the future. People are afraid that if kids go to adult prison instead of juvenile prisons, they will miss the chance to turn good and that their lives will be thrown away.

Oscar used to be in a gang. He says you can't fly free if you're in prison

However, the other side of the argument says that serious crimes like murder deserve serious punishments. Former California Governor Pete Wilson was quoted saying, "We must make clear to the violent, youthful offenders- the ones who just don't want to be saved- that California will not tolerate their depravity. And will impose adult time for adult crime." In other words, he wants violent youth to know that they will be punished severely. Some people feel this is the only way to protect families and communities.

The answers are not easy to figure out. What do you think is right?


Please email me at: Jennifer1@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Nick - The birth of gangs: a violent reaction to poverty
Stephanie - Military boot camps for teens gone bad