Proposition 21: Ineffective Policy

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Proposition 21, also known as “the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act of 1998,” was passed in 2000 in the state of California with the objective of toughening the penalties on felonies committed by youths, specifically gang-related felonies. While the intention of this proposition is certainly a good one since it aimed to fight and reduce youth and gang-related crimes, the repercussions and harms that it brought to the youth population and the society as a whole, in my opinion, outweigh the pros and benefits; therefore, I would suggest that Proposition 21 is not an effective policy and I would stand against it. Proposition 21, which is designed to increase a variety of penalties for crimes committed by youths and incorporate more youth offenders into the adult criminal justice system in order to allow harsher punishments that would impede youths from committing serious crimes, entails major changes to the California juvenile justice system; examples of these changes are: (1) increased punishment for gang-related felonies (e.g. indeterminate life sentences for home-invasion robbery, carjacking, witness intimidation and drive-by shootings), (2) requirement of adult trials for juveniles 14 or older charged with murder or specified sex offenses, (3) elimination of informal probation for juveniles committing felonies (youth offenders can no longer be “informally probated” with juvenile courts and have their criminal records cancelled after good behaviors during probation) (4) requirement of registration for gang related offenses, (5) authorization of wiretapping for gang activities, (6) designation of additional crimes as violent and serious felonies, such as recruiting for gang activities, thereby making offenders subject to longer sentences, and, last but not least, (7) making death penalty a punishment option for gang-related murder” (Woods, pg. 1). These changes, according to the texts of the proposition, are aimed to hinder more youths from committing serious crimes (by prosecuting those serious youth crimes with harsher sentences) hence help strangling youth crime rates and “protect Californians from criminals who don’t respect human life” (The League of Women Voters, 2000). While it is true that these new changes could help the authorities in detaining youth crimes more effectively and make youth offenders responsible for murder, rape, or any extreme violent acts, it is also true that they have huge detrimental effects on the youth population and the society as a whole; more importantly, the proposition only cures the “surface” but not the roots of the problem (the causes of youth, gang-related crimes). According to the article Nonpartisan In Depth Analysis of Proposition 21: Juvenile Crime, the major reasons why supporters do indeed support the proposition are: (1) “youth should not be an excuse for murder, rape or any violent act and Proposition 21 ends the "slap on the wrist" of current law by imposing real consequences for gang members, rapists and murderers” and (2) “The Three Strikes law has contributed to a decline in adult crime, while juvenile crime continues to be serious and needs to be addressed” (League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, 2000). These reasons are more than sufficient to call for a revamp in the justice system (which Proposition 21 was designed to do) if the previous justice system did not provide ways to make youth offenders to be accountable for their serious crimes as if they were adults and the youth crime problem is indeed going out of control; however, in reality, neither of these “ifs” are true; first of all, “California law already allows children and gang members as young as 14 to be tried and sentenced as adults” by discretion of juvenile courts (League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, 2000). Secondly, according to statistics provided by Policy Analysis of Proposition 21, juvenile crimes have been decreasing steadily “due to zero tolerance...
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