The Future of America? A hungry boy stole food from a market, was caught, and his right hand was chopped off. The next week the same boy, stole fruit from an orchard, again was spotted, and his left hand was chopped off. A few weeks later, leaving the back door to a bakery open, his mouth full and eyes no less vibrant, the boy was caught once again. The men of the town were stumped, what was to be chopped off next? The men of the town did not know what to do, until someone offered giving the boy a job. The boy never stole again. As difficult as it may be to remain open-minded when addressing a situation, sometimes the alternative solutions are better than that of the extreme.
Throughout American history, there is evidence of over-coming close mindedness. This evidence is seen in women’s voting rights and African American’s freedom. With the increasing youth violence present in America, we are once again given a task. This task, like that of Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights, is not going to have a simple solution. If the men in the story above had not come up with an alternative solution, what would be chopped off next? Arms? Feet? After reading about this topic and all its perspectives, I believe that severe punishment will always fail to deter youth crime. Rehabilitation and prevention, as difficult as they may be to accept, deserve attention. Arguments have resulted from examining the increase of convicted youth criminals and the severity of crimes committed. The youth crime rate has reached a twenty year high, says Patricia Cohen in her article entitled, “Punishment.” Equally staggering she says, is the fact that “from 1988-1991 the youth murder-arrest rate climbed 80 percent(518).” Terrible crimes committed by youth are sometimes as serious as those of their adult counterparts. As a result, the term youth’ is no longer synonymous with innocence. With this sudden “madness,” as coined by Males and Docuyanan in “Crackdown on Kids: Giving Up on the Young,” juveniles are being deferred into court at lower and lower ages(519). This can be seen in Wisconsin where ten-year-old children can be tried as adults for murder(519). Does imprisonment deter youth crime? Some people believe it is the only way to go, others disagree. Males and Docuyanan are among those who disagree, bringing up the point that, “If more prisons and surer sentences were the solutions to crime and delinquency, California should be a haven where citizens leave doors unlocked and stroll midnight streets unmenaced(521).” This is ironic because California having the third largest inmate system in the world, has failed to deter youth crime. Evidence for this is seen in California’s youth murder-arrest rate; it is one of the highest in the world(520). The fact that poverty-level minorities comprise the majority of youth criminals, proves that imprisonment’s failure to deter crime is a consequent of poverty’s inability of being policed. Although time consuming and somewhat arduous, evaluating youth criminals cases for correlations can help us understand where the criminals are coming from socially and economically. One common denominator in many of the youth criminals case’s as mentioned above, is poverty. Evidence for this strong correlation discussed by Males and Docuyanan, is seen in the cities like Los Angeles where economic gaps are well pronounced. Los Angeles, home to 200,000 poverty stricken adolescents, had more teen murders reported, than the whole state of California(520). Along with poverty, another similarity in these cases is that of race. African American and Hispanic youth account for six out of seven juvenile arrests(520). When these strong correlations are presented, the focus moves from the youth criminal as an individal to youth criminals as a poverty-level minority. Society’s obligations are being questioned here as part of our socity is seen to be struggling to survive. Although some victims of youth crime want to see the criminal held completely accountable for their actions, other victims recognize this issue as a wide spread problem, and would like to see it addressed. Deborah Dickerson in “Who Shot Johnny?,” described how her nephew was shot for no apparent reason by a youth criminal. The confusion, anger and feeling of