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Letter of the Day: Justice and juveniles

  • A high-security unit at the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Center

Justice and juveniles

EDITOR: Why is 15-year-old Joseph Varela being charged as an adult in the slaying of a young man (“15-year-old charged as adult in slaying,” Saturday)? The juvenile justice system was established on the common sense and humane assumption that juveniles should be treated differently than adults. Modern science supports what most of us have always known — that the brain isn't fully developed until a person is into his or her 20s.

In what other area of life do we treat a 15-year-old kid as an adult? Can he smoke? Drink? Vote? Enlist in the military? Enter into a legal contract? No. The reason is obvious. He is not yet an adult.

In the past, district attorneys in Sonoma County, with only a few exceptions, have shown an enlightened policy in the treatment of teenage offenders. It is shameful that we appear to be turning back the clock in the case of Joseph Varela, a kid who, according to his public defender, does not even have a previous record.

If the boy is guilty as charged, he should be made to pay for his crime. He should also be given every opportunity to turn his life around in juvenile facilities, where his chances of rehabilitation are much increased.

HANK MATTIMORE

Santa Rosa

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