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The documentary “They Call Us Monsters”, takes inside a segregated unit for juveniles being tried as adults in Sylmar Juvenile Hall and introduces to three teenagers awaiting trial where they spend their days and nights waiting to learn their fate for their violent and gang related crimes. A screenwriter offers to teach a writing workshop for the juveniles where they would work together over a 20-week duration to produce a script for a screenplay they will direct as part of their rehabilitation process.
The film also focuses on the attempt of the California legislature to reform laws providing juvenile offenders a chance outside of prison. During the film, something that caught my attention right away was that when the juveniles collaborated to develop the writing for the screenplay was that Juan and Jarad were sharing stories of their personal experiences rather then what they claimed to be their friends. It was interesting to me in that they were very open with their emotions on camera but were unwilling to reveal themselves as the identity of the individuals that they were discussing in their stories. The writing workshop allowed the juveniles the benefit of being allowed to express themselves. Moreover, it was evident that Juan and Jarad felt proud and accomplished of the work they had invested into writing and directing this screenplay. I found it quite shocking to me the fact that Antonio was in better condition physically and mentally inside the facility when he was serving time as oppose to when he stepped out and its lead to the speculation whether Juan or Jarad would have better benefitted from the opportunity had it presented itself or result in similar disappointment. Antonio was released into a dysfunctional situation, his family had just received an eviction notice for their home and he slipped back into his old habits of using marijuana and other drugs according to his brother which ultimately lead to him reoffending. Jarad had the traumatic experience of seeing his stepfather attempt to commit suicide whereas Juan grew up with the feeling of being unaccepted by his father and constantly felt he was in a competition with his own brother with the need to prove to himself that he was the superior of the two. Another cause for concern was that Jarad’s mother prior to her son’s arrest had already knew Jarad was getting himself into some deep trouble but lacked the resources to help aid her son as law enforcement practically informed her that they would not be able assist her son until after he was apprehended for committing a crime. At this part of the film, it occurred to me that this is a perfect example in that the rehabilitation process can begin far before a crime of any sort has been committed. In California, juveniles between the ages of 14-17 can be tried as adults and receive sentences longer than their natural life expectancy. Antonio, Juan and Jarad are all facing 90 plus years in prison because of attempted murder or first-degree murder. The film indicates that youth are different from adults in more than one way. According to Richard Bloom, youth lack impulsive control, judgement and the ability to access risk and consequences.
Adult prisons systems are responsible for punishing offenders whereas the juvenile system is responsible for rehabilitating juveniles but it’s not necessarily functioning that way. By handing out possible life sentences it gives the impression that the system is more focused on punishment as oppose to rehabilitation and further implying towards society, young offenders and their families that there is no hope. Moreover, the film points out the fact most states still impose juvenile sentences without no chance of parole serving as another clear example on systems focus and agenda. Creating the necessary opportunities for juvenile offenders to be granted a second chance provides possibility that the teenager grows out of their criminal ways overcoming his or her past to transcend into a better version of themselves fit to reenter society and create a successful path of their own. Arguments can be made that juveniles should indeed be tried as adults since their criminal activities are comparable. Age did not prevent juveniles from committing criminal activities in the first place, so it should not be the determining factor for whether they suffer the full extent of their punishment. Regardless of age, a crime is a crime no matter who did it. Juveniles should have the mental capacity to be able to differentiate from what society considers right from wrong. Violent offenders convicted on crimes such as murder, assault or rape should be severely punished to serve justice to the victim and their families. This could have a significant impact on recidivism rates as juveniles would feel less temptation to reoffended out of fear of the consequences that could occur to them. The approach could very well benefit the juvenile since he or she would appear in front of a jury as oppose to a single judge. There are a variety of ways we could prevent juvenile delinquency.
First and foremost, it begins with the parents, they must build a strong and healthy relationship with their children. Speaking from my personal experience growing up as a child, my parents were very loving and caring towards me but always made sure to discipline when I was misbehaving. Teaching kids at a young age to understand the importance of the law allows them to comprehend that their actions could result in consequences. Imposing free programs to keep youth active in their free time through extracurricular activities such as attending tutoring sessions or joining clubs with common interest or being physically engage in sports are greats way to develop valuable characteristics that could benefit them in the future when they become adults. The concept of prop 57 is allowing nonviolent felons an early chance at early parole after serving a certain amount of time. Some of the significant impacts would include reducing overcrowded prison population and saving states money in the process. For inmates to seek reduce time they would need to exhibit good behavior and participate in educational activities. Regarding the juvenile system, prop 260 allowed the opportunity for juveniles to have their cases review based on the fact that many of them were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime.
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