S.D was the youngest of a group of boys who committed a violent crime together. He was 14 years old. Now, several of the others, his co-defendants, have been tried and sentenced. One was sentenced to juvenile life, which remands him to California Youth Authority until the age of 23. S.D, now 17 is facing a sentence of 50 years to life. If it seems a bit unbalanced, it is. It is not unusual for the youngest or least culpable person involved in a crime to receive the harshest sentence. Learn more about this disappointing phenomenon of the justice system in an article from the New York Times: “Less Culpable, But With Longer Sentences.”
Richard Ross spoke with S.D at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall in January of this year. Read more stories from Santa Maria Juvenile Hall HERE
S.D: My Dad is on the run. There is a warrant out for him. He comes and visits sometimes. This place doesn’t look that deep as to who you are. I have been here 33 months. I was 14 when I entered. They have me charged with 1st degree murder with gun and gang enhancement. They say I am a member of the West Side BLP– Barrio Lampras Primero.
Richard Ross: Is that why you’re wearing an orange jumpsuit?
S.D: No, wearing orange means I am propped up.
R.R: Propped Up?
S.D: Prop 21. Charged as an adult. My Mom visits all the time. Now I’m the longest kid here. I was here with a different case when I went to Los Prietos and the gang unit came up and I caught another case. Originally I was in for GBI. Great Bodily Injury. Gang enhancement.
R.R: Gang enhancement?
S.D: The police can put a gang on you without any other process. They just serve you with some papers and then anything you get is added time also. It adds time.
R.R: Are you in a gang?
S.D: I was 14 when I was jumped in.—in Junior High School. That world wasn’t so good for me..I got kicked out of every Junior High School. I was the class clown. I have three older brothers, one younger. All of them are in trouble. One in DJJ, one in Youth Authority, younger one is in kid’s prison…He’s in Camarillo. I think the other two just got out on parole, but I’m not sure. I am starting trial next month with co-defendants in county. One is already sentenced to youth authority. He got juvenile life. He will be released when he is 23. When I got picked up there were five of us in here. Now one’s in county.
S.D: Jail. I was the youngest. I was 14. Then there was 16, 17, 19 and some guy in his 30s. All waiting sentence or trial. We got a severance.[superquote]I could be looking at 50-life. I think a kid should be accountable somewhat…but not all the way. I was really young and didn’t know what I was doing. It was too much for a 14 year old.[/superquote]
R.R: What is a severance?
S.D: Tried separately man. I talk to my little brother about how things are going on the outs. When I was on the outs I was in the mind set that “I was running the show.” I only met my Dad once–the day before I went in. I wanted to show my hommies I was someone. Dad was in and out of prison in Santa Barbara. He is Eastside. Now I am the same guy but I have a different mindset here. I stay focused on the trial. I could be looking at 50-life. Looking at. I think a kid should be accountable somewhat…but not all the way. I was really young and didn’t know what I was doing. It was too much for a 14 year old. It was night, we was doing drugs. We did everything, Meth, coke, weed, prescriptions. I’ve seen what drugs do to people. It makes them scandalous.
My Mom wants to get me moved from adult to juvenile– maybe I can get juvenile life. I would stay at the Youth Authority until I am 23. I have been willing to testify against the others. I think it is fair morally to testify against them. I was 14. I can get out at 23 and then I would live with my Mom. I never met my younger brother. He got a different Mom. I’m the only one with this Mom, my older brothers have a different Mom. Man, I don’t have a girlfriend. I been locked up too long.
—[This is the second in a series of posts on Santa Maria Juvenile Hall in Santa Maria, California.]