He faces a maximum of 30 years in a state prison, and he’s 17.
Authorities arrested Peter M. last year on charges of a home invasion robbery with a firearm. The youth now resides at Central Juvenile Hall and plans to take a deal for the minimum amount of time he can serve—12 years.
Peter wrote about life in juvenile hall for LA Youth in a story called Doing Time that appeared in our January-February issue. Here’s an excerpt from his story:
"I got arrested a month after I turned 16 and it was a big joke to me. When they read my charges and how much time I was facing, I laughed in the courtroom and thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.
Now it’s not so dumb. It’s reality.
I still haven’t come to truly grasp it, but my mind is starting to perceive it. It’s just hard to believe that a first-time offender, especially a juvenile, can receive such a harsh punishment. But they did it to me without thinking twice."
Students from Carole Shakely’s class at North High School in Torrance responded to Peter’s sentence and shared their thoughts about the juvenile justice system. Here’s what they said:
"I think it’s wrong for Peter to receive such a harsh sentence after his first offense. I think the judge should have looked into Peter’s background more, but he’s probably one of those people who don’t care about his profession anymore. If he did, he would have realized that this kid just needed some help making decisions. He didn’t need to have his whole life taken away. When Peter gets out, there will be nothing offered to him. Everyone will only look at the fact that he did time."
"Juvenile hall should be less of a jail and more like a private school. Peter’s sentence is too harsh. I can understand two or three years, but 12 will just make him a bitter and hardened criminal by keeping him with others who are worse. Peter will not be better off by serving his sentence. He will just grow to hate the system and probably break the law again."
"I think the juvenile justice system is good the way it is. They have good solid rules. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I still think Peter’s sentence is too harsh. I guess he deserves it, but I think he’s learned his lesson. What if he gets depressed in juvenile hall?"
"I don’t think Peter will be better off serving his sentence, because this was only his first offense. They should only give him a few months in jail, so he can spend more time with his dying father."
"I think the juvenile justice system should stay the same, because kids need to know what they’re in for when they hear or think about committing crimes. It’s a real serious thing. Just because people are under 18 doesn’t mean that they should have less slack. I feel bad for Peter and wish he thought about what he did before he did it."
"The juvenile justice system should do more than just punish kids. They should help with education. I don’t think Peter’s sentence is too harsh, but also don’t think it should be any longer. Being in jail will make him think more about what he did and never do it again."
"I think there should be a jury when trying teens, because judges can be partial. I also think that teens should have to pay the same price for their crimes as adults. Peter should have to serve the time, because he committed the crime."
"The juvenile justice system should be changed, and they should look at the crime and the child’s background. So many kids are in jail because of dysfunctional families. So instead of putting those kids in jail, they should get them help."
"I think 12 years in prison for armed robbery is a bit much. That’s more than rapists and child molesters receive. If I were the judge, I’d give Peter six months in jail, probation and make him pay back the amount he stole."
"I don’t think Peter will be better off serving his sentence. I think they should have given him in-house arrest or something of that sort. Some adults who do crimes similar to Peter’s don’t have to serve as long in prison as he does."
"I honestly feel that Peter should do his sentence, especially if it was my home that he came into with a gun. If he’s so smart, then why did he do something like that? Think of the people he scared with his gun and what they went through. When I think of that, I don’t think Peter’s sentence is harsh enough."
"I have never been to juvenile hall, but they should clean it better from the sound of things. Peter’s sentence was too harsh. Even the hockey dad who killed another father got less time than 12 years. Peter did do a robbery and did have a firearm, but no one was hurt. He didn’t kill anyone, like the hockey dad did."