“Not a lot of money is being spent on the community,” said Aguilar, who was 16 when he shot dead a man he says robbed his grandmother.
San Joaquin County prosecutors filed Aguilar’s case in adult court, and he was transferred from a juvenile detention facility to state prison after his conviction at age 17. Now 41, with a job and a new life, he wonders if he could have rehabilitated himself sooner if he had been tried in juvenile court and confined in a youth facility rather than in a prison full of hardened criminals.
“I started out in [the California] Youth Authority, but when I went to the penitentiary, it was like night and day. There was no hope after that. I thought, ‘You’re going to die in here,’ ” said Aguilar, who was released under a 2014 law that gave inmates convicted of crimes committed before they were 18 a chance at parole.
Proponents of Proposition 57, a statewide measure on next week’s ballot, say Aguilar’s case illustrates the need to end prosecutors’ power to decide whether suspects as young as 14 are tried as adults. Instead, they say, juvenile cases that qualify for adult court should be vetted by a judge.