Portrait of a Young Man

Letters from the week of April 25, 2002

Kids on the Skids

Teen angel, can you hear me?: Please, take the time to read this. I read your article about Christopher Camacho's death at the Adobe Mountain facility ("Dying Young," Amy Silverman, April 18). I am interested because I know several teens who are incarcerated at that facility, and have myself been detained at two juvenile detention facilities. I personally feel that the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections needs to make quite a few drastic changes -- if we plan on making this a correctional system and not a punitive one.

The system that is in place now does not seem to be working. Most kids who go through the juvenile system end up in the adult system. Though this is probably due in part to the fact that we are "criminals," "the future scum of society," and have "serious psychiatric disorders and emotional issues" (guess which Arizona politician said that?), it is my own opinion that we as young adults are at our optimum time to learn and accept new ideas, if we could only have those ideas presented to us in a way that could break through the habits we learn in our natural environments.

I am a ward of the court, and reside in a group home facility with five other boys. A large percentage of the children under care of CPS are involved with the juvenile court system. For example, one of the boys I live with just spent a year at Adobe Mountain. He is 14 years old. He is on juvenile parole and is undergoing professional counseling, taking psychiatrist-prescribed medication, the works.

I live with him, and I see what everyone else does not. The judge, the probation officers, the counselor, the psychiatrist -- they don't have his best interests at heart. They have no empathy, they don't really understand, nor do they care to. All they see is a 14-year-old boy with major chemical imbalances, deep-seated emotional issues, and nothing in store for him but a future as a criminal.

And they are absolutely right. Because they are making it that way. And it drives me into a blinding rage, because it's not just happening to that 14-year-old boy, it's happening to so many of us. It may even be happening to me.

Maybe I could work hard, study harder, go to college, become a politico and use my influence to make a positive change, do the right thing. But you know what? I can't. I'm 17, turning 18 on the 25th of this month, on juvenile probation at this very moment for a burglary that occurred in 1996 (six years ago!), a high school dropout, no job skills, broke, and angry.

I'm on the verge of becoming a hardened criminal, a total drain on society, maybe even a cold-blooded killer. And I want so badly not to, just to be happy or be at peace. I want it so badly it kills me a little bit every single day.

What I would ask from you is that perhaps you could help me to get in contact with some of the people who make the decisions, some of the people who have the power to change things, and maybe, just maybe, I could make them stop and think, maybe even understand. And maybe something might get done, and done right. Maybe they'll start giving us a chance to fix our lives and be happy.

Just Another Juvenile Delinquent
Via e-mail

Ping-Pong Master

Table tennis, anyone?: Thank you and congratulations on a very good article about Si Kenig ("Tuesdays With Si," Amy Silverman, April 18). My father, a snowbird, has been playing table tennis for years and has been playing at the Phoenix Table Tennis Club each winter while in town. He is 76 and has played many a game with Si. He would appreciate Si continuing to come to the club so he will not be the oldest participant.

Larry J. Nass
Phoenix

Spike Strikes

Scientific conundrum: I am responding to your story "Black Hole" (Spiked, April 11). The story was based on information from Spike regarding the estimated budget and cost to the taxpayers of attracting the genetics consortium. Some recent Arizona court cases regarding the Arizona Public Records Law include opinions stating that the public records law leans toward disclosure. Apparently, the attorneys who did the redacting have a strange concept of "disclosure."

It looks like, once again, the taxpayer is in jeopardy. Arizona recently enacted significant budget cuts for all its state employees and major universities. Because of these cuts, state employees, in essence, will receive no cost of living raise and the universities are losing faculty, staff and resources.

Arizona has its first obligation to the employees who support the state and to its universities, faculty, staff and students. Shame on the governor and biotechnology speculators who are taking revenue that should go to state employees and the universities and pledging it to speculate on attracting a biotech industry to Arizona. Remember the Baltimore, Maryland, Columbus Center, touted as a biotechnology giant for the study of marine life? Part of it has stood vacant for four years because of financial difficulties.

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