Stickup Kid

Stickup Kid

2014, Crime  -   15 Comments
Ratings: 7.80/10 from 81 users.

Produced as part of the acclaimed PBS series Frontline, the searing Stickup Kid tells the story of Alonza Thomas, a troubled young teen who was arrested following a botched armed robbery attempt at a gas station. Controversially, Alonza was sentenced to serve over a decade in a super-maximum security prison in Tehachapi, California; the kind of unforgiving establishment designed for the most hardened adult criminals. At the time of his sentencing, Alonza was just 16 years of age.

The state's harsh penalty for Alonza came on the heels of new legislation - Proposition 21 - which calls for a zero tolerance stance on juvenile crime. Alonza was the first youth to be sentenced under Proposition 21, and his incarceration has been the subject of passionate debate from both sides of the issue.

"These crimes are dangerous," says Ed Jagels, the District Attorney who successfully argued for Alonza's imprisonment. "What people have to remember is that a lot of people out there who are trying to make a living have a right not to be terrified."

For figures like Jagels, harsh sentencing for minor offenders serves its purpose as a justifiable deterrent, and rids the state of a menacing criminal element. Others, such as Alonza's defense attorney H.A. Sala, disagree. "When you're 14 or 15 years old, even if you commit a violent felony, the potential is great for rehabilitation," he claims in the film.

Stickup Kid provides adequate time to both points of view, and paints a disturbing portrait of a state that locks up more children per capita than any other. Perhaps the film's greatest virtue, however, is its painfully honest look at what life is like for Alonza while in captivity. The majority of his prison sentence has been served in outdoor cages and solitary confinement.

Society's desire to be free from the threat of crime is among the most understandable of impulses, and the United States criminal justice system is largely viewed as the key to fulfilling that desire. But an empowered society is also an informed one, and therein lies the major benefit of this haunting documentary short.

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Brian nunez
2 years ago

Thats really a reminder to be happy

3 years ago

What happened to Calif. Youth Authority? For young men from 16 to 26?

Kelvin Thomas
4 years ago

Alonza is my nephew. His first stop when he ran away was to my mother (His grandmother.) I took him and put him on a bus home prior to him meeting this adult with whom he got wrapped up in this matter. This system is unfair and unjust and is in the process of being overturned.

7 years ago

Fact is - adolescents and youth don't possess the same action-reaction/impulse controls as adults do. That's why they are allowed to be and should be treated different within the corrections system. It's a scientific fact that their brains are not as developed in this area of impulse control and rational thinking. Stop saying a 15 year old child deserved going to an adult prison where he then attempted suicide numerous times. Some of you are crazy. Do your research. PLEASE. Adult prisons are no place for adolescents and we have evidence-based studies to show us why that is now.

7 years ago

So this guy goes into a store to rob it armed with a gun... and this is somehow 'not a serious crime'. They might be right about the conditions in prison being bad, but he fully deserves the sentence he got.

7 years ago

It sucks haveing to go threw what he have been threw I am just setting back thinking all the things I did around that age Iam just bless that's why I don't look back and it's good he have all that support with he's family

7 years ago

I think over zealous law-makers make laws and don't anticipate the unintended consequences. Prop 21 has in no way helped our youth. Youth Prisons are the "universities of crime". When a impressionable, young kid goes to an adult prison it has irreversible damages. I don't believe kids should be tried as adults, ever. We need to believe in our kids and think that -in some cases- they can rehabilitate.

7 years ago

I feel sympathy for him, and the prison experience was obviously extremely hard on this young man, but, the crime was extremely serious and only luck saved the storekeeper from being hit by the bullet when the gun went off. As the prosecutor? or whoever it was who stated something to the effect of "you cant spend lots of time sympathizing - you either punish the crime or you dont" ... I have to agree. Very sad story though.

7 years ago

This punishment did not fit the crime. He was clearly ruined by the prison system, not reformed by it. I feel no sympathy for "din'do nuffins", but this kid is clearly not one of them.

Sumner Berg
7 years ago

I sympathize with this guy who is just one of the thousands in the same leaky boat. Humanity sucks and I think it is doomed as we don't address the overpopulation problem. The elite controls the world and the middle class suffers. We are the dupes and will become the ultimate losers in the establishment of The New World Order controlled by the rich and the big banks. We the normal people are expendable and will be eliminated down the road.

7 years ago

Do not let the film persuade you to feel sympathetic toward this stupid kid or any other "unarmed youth" embraced by the media. Fact is these din'do nuffins are guilty of serious crimes.

7 years ago

i did not watch it yet but it looks good

7 years ago

sadly, and poingantly, for every action there is a consequence

Muhannad Faza
7 years ago

It is a fantastic file. All respect to Alonza Thomas who believed and have faith in himself.