criminal justice writing question and need a sample draft to help me learn.
Read the four juvenile offender profiles attached, choose two of the boys, and respond to the following questions for each boy:
1) Which theory do you think best explains the delinquency behavior of the offender(s) you chose?
2) What physical and/or social characteristics do you think fit into the “profile” of areas of at risk or delinquent youth?
3) Why do you think the offender(s) you chose engaged in the offenses they commit and what do you think needs to be done in order to get them back on the right path?
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Requirements: Between 5-7 sentences each
MANNY – OFFENDER 1
In the fall of 1999, when he was 17, Manny and two other gang members attacked a family in his neighborhood. One of the victims was six months pregnant. The prosecution says she was hit repeatedly in the stomach with a baseball bat. Four men were assaulted, two of them stabbed. Manny was arrested and brought to court on four counts of attempted murder.
Manny comes from one of San Jose’s roughest neighborhoods, and is a member of the Hispanic Norteño gang. His childhood was difficult; he grew up without his father and started running the streets and fighting in fourth grade. He has adopted the ethos of the streets, and believes that violence is sometimes necessary to achieve the respect of his peers. He says, “If someone hits you, you got to defend yourself . . . By just sitting there and turning the other cheek , you don’t stick up for yourself, you just get rolled on, you don’t have no self pride for yourself.”
The 1999 attack was his second violent felony; at 14 he pled guilty to rape in juvenile court. Given this history, the District Attorney believed that he had all the hallmarks of a kid who belongs in the adult system, and petitioned the court to try him as an adult. In criminal court, Manny could receive more than 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.
Under California law, there are five criteria the juvenile court must consider when determining whether to certify a child up to the adult system: the level of the offender’s criminal sophistication, whether he can be rehabilitated within the time the juvenile court has to work with the minor, previous delinquent history, the success of prior attempts at rehabilitation, and, finally, the seriousness and gravity of the crime.
A Santa Clara County probation officer, working independently of the prosecution and defense, prepared a fitness report for the court based on the five criteria. He found Manny to be fit for the juvenile system on the first four counts. He believed that the system could have done a better job of rehabilitating Manny after the rape incident. He served only 56 days at the Juvenile Ranch because of good behavior, and did not receive any sexual offender counseling while serving his sentence or when he returned home. Given this, the probation officer found Manny fit under the criteria of previous attempts to rehabilitate him. He did find him unfit on the criterion regarding the seriousness of the crime, however.
Ultimately, the court agreed. Despite evidence that Manny had not been the one to hit the pregnant woman, Judge LaDoris Cordell found him unfit on the final criterion, the seriousness of the crime. In her ruling, she said, “There is no evidence of any circumstances that would tend to mitigate the gravity of the offense. It was clearly under any kind of reading a vicious attack.” Under California law, since Manny was 17, he must be sent to adult court if found unfit on any of the five criteria. His one reprieve was being allowed to stay in Juvenile Hall pending the outcome of his adult trial.
In the summer of 2000, Manny pled guilty to seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He now has two adult violent felony convictions or “strikes.” If he commits another felony–violent or nonviolent — he could be sentenced to life in prison under California’s “three strikes” law. He is not hopeful about his chances of remaining out of prison for life. He says, “It might as well be a done deal. Two strikes. . . . I am only 18 years old. I plan to live until I am 50, I’m not perfect. I don’t know, I don’t think I’m going to make it, you know? I don’t think I’m going to stay out for good.” On January 22, 2001, Manny was sentenced to nine years at state prison.
SHAWN – OFFENDER 2
On Christmas night 1998, in the affluent neighborhood of Los Altos, California, 16 year-old Shawn attacked his sleeping father, stabbing him repeatedly in the arms, head and neck with a knife. The reason for the attack remains unclear. Though there had been tension in the family over Shawn’s marijuana use and expulsion from school, his family says that his relationship with his father had not been a violent one.
Shawn himself claims to have no memory of stabbing his father. His mother describes waking up to her husband screaming; his father remembers being unable to identify his attacker at first, then realizing it was his son and eventually tackling him to the ground. Police and medical help arrived, and both were taken to the hospital. Shawn didn’t realize what had happened, he says, until a police officer approached him at the hospital: “The cop . . . said, ‘You’re gonna get charged with attempted murder, and if he dies, you’re gonna get charged with first degree murder.’ I said, ‘If who dies?’ He said, ‘Your dad.’ And it was then that I knew.”
Shawn was charged with attempted murder. Prosecutors filed fitness papers to try Shawn in adult criminal court rather than in the juvenile system. If convicted in adult court of attempted murder, Shawn would have faced a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life .
After much discussion with his parents, Shawn decided to plead guilty to the charges and receive his punishment from the juvenile system, rather than risk the substantial prison sentence. By staying in the juvenile system, he avoided an adult criminal record, and would get a shorter sentence since the juvenile system could only hold him until he was 25.
Prior to this incident, there had been signs that Shawn was troubled. He had been arrested and charged with strong-arm robbery when he and a friend stole money from a smaller boy. Shawn says his drinking had escalated into serious marijuana use, and he was asked to leave two schools. At the juvenile court dispositional hearing which would determine his sentence, it became clear that there were serious problems in the household which had contributed to Shawn’s drug use and troubled behavior. His mother had a drinking problem. Shawn told FRONTLINE that it was she who had introduced him to drinking at an early age. His father was often away on business trips, leaving Shawn and his mother alone.
In an effort to understand Shawn’s behavior, the court ordered a psychological evaluation. The report found no significant psychiatric disturbances, but instead it proposed that the attack stemmed from “an altered state of consciousness” coming from “a disturbance of sleep.” Based on this report, Shawn’s public defender Bridgett Jones prepared a stunning new argument in his defense: he was sleep walking when he attacked his father, and therefore did not intend to do it.
At the hearing, attorneys for each side presented sleep research experts. Dr. Rafael Pelayo, of Stanford University’s sleep clinic, agreed that “parasomnia” was a plausible explanation for Shawn’s behavior. In his interview with FRONTLINE, he noted that family dysfunction often plays a role in parasomnia in children. The prosecution’s expert disagreed, saying that parasomnia was not a likely explanation for the attack
Since Shawn’s case was so unusual and the testimony in such conflict, Judge Thomas Edwards postponed his determination of Shawn’s sentence and sent him for a 90-day evaluation at the California Youth Authority, the state’s most restrictive juvenile detention facility. During his first week there, Shawn says he was pressured by a white gang member to force his cellmate to perform oral sex. He says he didn’t want to do it, but complied because he was frightened for his own safety.
When Shawn returned, Judge Edwards handed down a sentence that surprised some people in court. After the incident with his cellmate, it seemed likely that Shawn would receive at least some time in the California Youth Authority. However, Judge Edwards ruled that Shawn remain in the Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Hall until he turns 19. In addition, Shawn would be allowed to leave the facility during the day to attend community college classes, private counseling sessions, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Eventually he was even allowed to go home for meals with his family.
The prosecutor was surprised, and troubled, by the outcome. He said, “At the end, I think everyone in that courtroom was ready to fall out of their chairs. And I think that it was a tremendous injustice that was done in this case. Not just the fact that we didn’t treat this individual the way that he should have been treated – in my opinion – but that we have created the perception in the community that certain people are going to be treated differently in the system, because of where they come from.”
He is not the only one. Many of the kids serving time in Juvenile Hall think Shawn got a break, and that had he not been white and from an affluent neighborhood, he would have received a much harsher sentence. Even his attorney Bridgett Jones says that this case reminds her: “There is inequity in the juvenile justice system . . . . There is inequity in terms of race, there is inequity in terms of socioeconomic status. . . . You know it and you see it, but to actually have a case like this, it really brings it to the forefront.”
Whether Shawn will take advantage of the break he has been given remains to be seen. At the end of October he got into trouble again–he smoked pot. When he thought his probation officer knew and had proof, he took off. When he was arrested four hours away in another town, he was high and belligerent, and officers had to use force to restrain him. In February Judge Edwards is due to sentence him for the probation violation. He can send him to the California Youth Authority, or sentence him to additional time in a local facility.
MARQUESE – OFFENDER 3
Seventeen year old Marquese is what members of the juvenile justice system call a “frequent flyer.” He has been in and out of the system for years, and has seven juvenile felony convictions, all theft-related. He has been on probation and spent time in juvenile hall, at the juvenile camp, and at the California Youth Authority. He was most recently charged with auto theft and residential burglary.
Because of his repetitive criminal behavior, the fact that he was less than two months short of being 18, and the fact that he re-offended while on parole from the California Youth Authority, prosecutors sought to have Marquese tried in adult court for his latest offenses. At his fitness hearing, one of his probation officers described him as a “career criminal,” who despite receiving multiple rehabilitative services over the years continues to break the law as soon as he is released from detention.
Defense Attorney Gilda Valeros disagrees. She sees him as exactly the sort of kid that the juvenile system could help, primarily because of his personality. He is still very young emotionally, she says, and very dependent on adults for guidance and approval. He is very bright, and has does well when he is in an institutional setting: he does not cause trouble, does his school work, and does not participate in gang activities. He reoffends when he is released, she believes, because he is not given adequate support and supervision. She speculated that, in fact, he may unconsciously be trying to get caught in order to be brought back into the system, which is the safest place he has known. She said, “It’s a very profound thing when you have such a young man not really seeing anything in either his immediate family or his community that he can become invested in, legitimately and productively and legally. . . . Unfortunately, the most stable environments he ever had were in institutions.”
Marquese’s mother has serious substance abuse problems, and some of Marquese’s younger siblings had been temporarily removed from her care by the state. (By the time this happened, Marquese was already in the juvenile justice system, serving time in facilities.) She was in and out of jail during his childhood, and says that she taught Marquese to steal when he was young. She told FRONTLINE that her drugs of choice were heroin and crack cocaine. At the fitness hearing, a probation officer described their home as “a crack house.” Despite all this, Marquese loves his mother very much and is very protective of her.
At one point, Marquese was paroled from CYA to the custody of his aunt. She was a young woman in her twenties and had also served time in the CYA – for murder. At the fitness hearing, Valeros argued that this and other placements were indicative of how the system had failed Marquese over and over. Because he did so well and was so cooperative with authorities while institutionalized, she believes he repeatedly fell through the cracks and did not receive the assistance he needed to reenter society in a productive way.
Prosecutors disagreed vehemently with her characterization of Marquese, claiming that his repeat offending indicated that he was obviously not going to be rehabilitated by yet another stint in the juvenile system. His fitness hearing dragged on over a span of one month, one of the longest running fitness hearings that anyone involved could remember.
Judge Nancy Hoffman eventually determined that Marquese should get one more chance at rehabilitation in the juvenile system. Since he was charged with a nonviolent felony, in order to be transferred to the adult system, Judge Hoffman could not find him unfit based on just one criterion. She could only send him to adult court if she found him unfit overall, weighing all the criteria set out by California law: the level of the offender’s criminal sophistication, whether the minor can be rehabilitated within the time the juvenile system has jurisdiction over him or her, previous delinquent history, the success of prior attempts at rehabilitation, and, finally, the seriousness of the crime. Hoffman found that he was unfit under the first criterion of criminal sophistication, since he had planned the burglary. She also found him unfit in terms of his prior record of rehabilitation within the juvenile system, since he had reoffended so often after treatment. However, she found him fit under the remaining three criteria. In terms of his prior history she found that his criminal history was mitigated by his “horrendous childhood” during which he received “little or no guidance,” and was therefore fit under that criterion. On the fifth criteria, the gravity of the offense, she found him fit. Therefore, Judge Hoffman ruled that he was still amenable to treatment within the juvenile system. Marquese was returned to the California Youth Authority and will be up for parole in the fall of 2001.
JOSE – OFFENDER 4
Fifteen year-old José’s childhood was difficult: his father, a heroin addict, disappeared shortly after José was born, and his mother had problems of her own and eventually disappeared as well. And eventually, Jose became involved with a local gang. He also became a serious addict, hooked on both drugs and alcohol.
In the fall of 1998 José participated in a deadly brawl. He and four other teenagers — two of them recent immigrants from Mexico – had been hanging out in an alley, drinking. The teenagers started roughhousing and this escalated into serious fight, with the two immigrants becoming targets of the others. The skull of one of them was crushed, after being beaten repeatedly. The other escaped by scaling a fence, breaking his ankle in the process. José and his friends fled the scene as the neighbors awoke to the commotion.
José was arrested and charged with murder. Prosecutors asked for a fitness hearing to determine if he could be tried in adult court, because of the seriousness of the crime. As prosecutor Kurt Kumli explained, “He had been in the system since he was twelve years old, and he committed a crime of such violence, of such callousness, that it really begged under the statutory scheme set out for fitness to be certified up . . . .”
Upon investigation, however, more facts began to emerge about José’s case. After fleeing the scene of the assault, José and his friend had found the second victim struggling to walk with a broken ankle, and they helped the victim to get home and clean up. It was also discovered that while José had participated in the beating, he appeared to have played a lesser role in the attack. These factors, combined with his youth and severe intoxication on the night of the incident, led prosecutors to offer José a deal. Prosecutor David Soares said, “We looked at what was the level of participation in the assault, how criminal was he, how culpable was he. And in José’s case . . . we saw that his involvement wasn’t that high.” So José was offered a deal: he was to move to adult court and plead guilty, but to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. After his plea, José was sent for a psychological evaluation at the California Youth Authority. He received a favorable evaluation in which the psychologist found that he was not likely to be a threat to public safety as long as he was sober.
The judge gave José a very big break — sentencing him to only 208 days in Juvenile Hall. While he was there, José worked hard at school, graduating shortly before his release. He became a favorite of the staff; as teacher Joe Mangelli explained, “He did a lot of it on his own. The raw material was there. He didn’t have to start from ground zero. He had a great personality and intelligence and openness, and I think the staff around here filled in the gaps for him and helped him to succeed, hopefully forever.”
Released from juvenile hall at 17, José now carries an adult record. As conditions of his probation, he had to cut all ties with his gang life, submit to drug tests and either find a job or go to school full time. After five months of rejections, and with the assistance of a nurse from the juvenile hall, José obtained a job with a local parks department. He enrolled in community college after the staff from juvenile hall helped him get books and a bicycle to get to class.
Update: In late January 2001, Jose was arrested for a probation violation. He is currently in county jail and will appear in court sometime in February.
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