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Yes, I’ve had enough of violence
1st place $50

By Kalic Chambers

I was born and raised in New York City. That alone may scare people away. I grew up in a place where violence runs rampant. John Adams High School was the third most violent high school in New York City. I had to go through two metal detectors every morning.

My freshman year of school was the most memorable of my life, but not because of education or meeting new friends. One thing stands out in my mind: A child was slashed from ear to ear. He was left bleeding and begging for his life on the floor over his gold chain. The perpetrator was expelled and switched schools. He spent an afternoon in jail and received counseling. A day in jail or 153 stitches, who won that battle?

There’s a thin line between adults and teenagers. A few restricting laws here and there, and a teenager after 16 would be an adult. By the age of 13 or 14 we know the difference between good and evil. The news portrays our society’s killers in graphic detail on television.

Illustration by Matt Jones, 16, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

Now I feel a child at the age of 12 or 13 who commits a hideous crime needs more help than to be locked up. Yet they still need to be punished. By the age of 15 or 16 kids are doing drugs, having sex and some more unspeakable acts. When they mess up we blame them and their parents. When they commit a crime we say they might need help.

After years of living in a violent society, frankly I’m tired of forgiveness. I’ve seen kids mug and assault others and get out of jail the next day. They got slaps on the wrist. Then politicians wonder why our country has a problem with crime. Simply, there needs to be severe consequences for criminal actions.

Of course there has to be a line drawn between teenagers 12-14 and up. But if we can have jobs, have children and drive, even pay taxes, why do we get away with crime? Imagine a killer walking alongside you in the streets at the age of 21, his whole life ahead of him, while someone lies in a grave with theirs taken.

Maybe—we need to look into the causes of teen crime. Who’s to blame?

2nd Place $30

By Nathalia P. Guizon, 17, Van Nuys HS

Many think that teenagers of today are a disgrace to the society. The Columbine High School incident is still fresh in peoples’ minds. Who could ever forget watching the news and seeing a typical high school in Colorado held hostage by the Trench Coat Mafia? The Trench Coat Mafia was able to collect information from the Internet, enabling them to create bombs and plant them at Columbine High. Nobody knows who is to blame. I believe that if we look beyond the teenagers’ actions we can find the root of the problem. It is said that racism and prejudice are like seeds, once planted they grow. Who knows, the parents of these teenagers from the Trench Coat Mafia could have taught these kids to be racist or prejudiced, leading them to the killing rage. Maybe the parents should have taken a closer look at their kids. Maybe the teachers and counselors who spend five days a week with these kids could have picked up on something and prevented the whole incident. Maybe the government could have censored the Internet preventing dangerous information from getting into the wrong hands. Once again, nobody knows who is to blame.

Because I believe that it takes a village to raise a child, I don’t think teenagers should be tried as adults. Instead, everyone should do his or her own part to prevent teenagers from any actions that could endanger others. When a teenager commits a violent crime, the community should not only consider the damage the crime did, but also look deeper into the cause of it. What stimulated the teenager to commit that violent crime? Was he or she physically abused, emotionally scared, raised and taught racism and prejudice, exposed to excess violence or dangerous information? Whatever the reason, the teenage criminal is still young, it’s not too late to help him or her see the right way. Yes they should be punished severely but not to the extent of an adult. A human being only has one life to live, it would be a waste if our children of today who are the futures of tomorrow were deprived of a second chance to not only redeem themselves but also turn their lives around. Just one more chance. No more and no less.

No, teens can change, like my brother did

3rd Place $20

By Lauren Cummings, 16, Temple City HS

There are too many things that could go wrong with this proposition. The fact that it isn’t specific enough on what they want to crack down is too risky and not worth the time and money the government is asking for.
Without Proposition 21 a judge can consider the circumstances when deciding whether to try a child who is accused of a home invasion robbery as an adult. Sometimes children can change, just like my brother. Adrian used to be in a gang in Rosemead. He was jumped in when he was 14. He was involved in drive-by shootings. He stole things from homes and most likely shot at some people (that’s something that he will never tell me). Well, I don’t really know what happened when he decided to get out but he was around 17 and had to hide at a relative’s house for about a year to get out. All I knew was that he wanted to change and he did. He is now 27 years old, owns a two-story home and is very well off. This is because he wanted to change and he did. If Proposition 21 came into place children would never get a chance to clean up their act because they would have a record. No one would want to hire that person because of his record and he would never get a chance to live to the best of his ability.

We need a happy medium, like let’s toughen juvenile detention centers and make kids fear the system. Let’s put the rapists and the killers in psychic wards where they could be watched, but don’t put California’s children in adult prisons.