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Issues | Youth Opinion

'Do the Crime, Do the Time'

May 17, 1997

Legislation passed by the House of Representatives, though harshly denounced by President Clinton, would allow juveniles as young as 13 to be tried as adults in federal court. The legislation also would give money to states that adopt similar laws. ANNA MARIE STOLLEY asked teenagers if juvenile offenders should receive the same punishment as adults.

LACRESHA HAWKINS

15, sophomore, University High School

I think kids should be tried as adults for murder, but for assault, they should be tried as juveniles. Why? Because why would a 15-year-old be charged for, let's say assault, and then go to a men's prison instead of being tried as a juvenile to serve their time in a camp? I think assault is too little to be tried as an adult. Murder, OK, adult. Yes, because it involves a life. You don't take anyone's life because you don't want them to take yours. If you were smart enough to kill someone, then you are smart enough to do the time.

MONICA LOPEZ

15, freshman, Santa Monica High School

Murder? Try them as an adult. They know what they're doing. But I don't think they should be executed; they're just kids. They should spend time in prison.

If the crime is rape, they should be tried as an adult, even if they're just 13.Thirteen-year-olds are pretty smart.

Too young to be treated as an adult is, I think, 12 and younger. They haven't really experienced as much as older people have.

I know someone, a friend, involved in gang activity. He stabbed someone, and then he was put in juvenile hall. He was 17, and, well, I'm pretty sure he knew what he was doing. It's sad where he ended up, but he did the crime, so he should do the time.

I guess people feel these days that they have to impress their friends and do what their friends do--drugs, carjacking, crimes. If they know they will be punished like adults, it will show them that crime is something very serious.

APRIL ZONNIS

12, seventh grade, Portola Middle School, Tarzana

In a case of murder, a kid should be treated as an adult because if you take somebody's life you should be put to death or spend the rest of your life in jail.

Who cares how old you are? It's the same crime if a 16-year-old does it or if a 36-year-old does it.

Who cares if they're not an adult--unless maybe the parent is not stable and doesn't know how to teach the child right from wrong. Then the kid should still do time or do community service, and then maybe the parent should go to jail for neglect or go to counseling in order to provide a better home for the child.

Now if you're under 18, you are getting away with too much. Courts are too easy with teens. They're committing the same crimes as adults, but end up with only a little time or community service. Nowadays, killing people is no big deal to some kids.

SAMUEL CRUZ

17, junior, Vista High School, Lynwood

It depends on the age and situation. For instance, if something's happening in their home, stuff they can't control, and the only way to stop it is with a gun, then they should be tried as children.

But if kids are out there doing it for gang-related things, they should be tried as adults. They know what they're doing and they went ahead and did it anyway. They know right from wrong because they're old enough to be out there on the street and claiming their neighborhood.

They should all be tested, though, to know if they really know right from wrong before they get treated as an adult, put in a penitentiary or executed.

LUIS FLORES

17, junior, Vista High School, Lynwood

I think juveniles should be tried as adults because at a young age, even as young as 13 or 14, you have a fully developed conscience. You see, in tribes in Africa, when a young man reaches an age of 13, he is considered adult and given more responsibilities.

For a crime like murder, they should be given a life sentence, but not execution, because nobody should take a life, even if you are an adult. Let them stay in jail so they can feel remorse for what they did.

If you're 17 and commit murder, you should be tried as an adult and put in maximum security. You have reached manhood. You're old enough to know the difference between life and death and you put someone from the realm of life to the realm of death.

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