ARENAS GETS LWOP
We originally posted the killing of CHP officer STEINER by 16-year-old VALENTINO ARENAS, a POMONA 12th STREET wannabe when it first happened. If you recall, ARENAS was intent on making a name for himself with his neighborhood and decided that the most dramatic and direct way was to kill a cop. It was an assassination pure and simple.
This week, ARENAS was sentenced to LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE (LWOP). I was discussing this case with a reformed gangster and a retired cop, each of us musing about what can a free society do to keep teens like Arenas from getting to that point of insanity where he pulls the trigger on a cop just to impress a bunch of other teens.
We estimated that if Arenas lives to 70, each of his next 54 years in prison will cost California $36,000 for a grand total of $1.94 million to house, feed, clothe and keep healthy. I wondered what if the state had spent ten percent of that money, roughly $190,000, on him in some kind of intervention or diversion program. Could a kid like him, with a father already in prison, a caretaker aunt who had just come out of prison when the killing happened and a non-present mom, possibly be snatched out of that environment and set straight?
Oddly, it was the reformed gangster in our group who was the most pessimistic. Based on his own eperience with a terrible home environment, time in the CYA, County jail and ultimately State prison, his contention is that there's no government program that can give a kid what he needs and craves the most -- loving parents and a stable home. The most we can hope to do, he said, was the yank that kid out of the house when he was still an infant and either put him up for adoption or put him in an orphanage. That's illegal, to say the least. In a free society, I told him, you can't take kids away from parents on the basis of how they "might" be damaged by their own parents in the future. And besides, I said, there are plenty of kids in supposedly stable, well-off homes who go sideways and set off a COLUMBINE or pull off a drive-by. You yank those kids too?
The retired cop then brought up an example of something that happened in England this week.In this case, it was a 12-year-old who assaulted and raped his special ed teacher, stole her car and went on a cime spree. Like Arenas, he was sentenced to LWOP, something unheard of in England but something that they're learning to deal out. Apparently, the kid had been a professional smoker and drinker since the age of four and was encouraged to have sex by the time he was eight. By his alcoholic, drug-addicted parents.
The point that the cop went on to make was that in England, where they've got every social program known to man, where they've banned guns and the death penalty, provide free cradle to grave medical care, ultra-generous welfare allowances, free housing to the poor, and where you can't even give somebody the finger without being accused of a hate crime, even they can't seem to short-circuit the youth crime problem. Apparently, it's almost as bad there as it is in LA.
"It's the home," the ex-gangster said. "Definitely," the ex-cop said. "There's got to be a way," I said. "Yeah," the ex-gangster said. "But it would be illegal."