A common theme I have found in many YA dystopias is that the young adults involved in the novel are, at times, accused and punished for crimes they did not commit. For example, Katniss Everdeen in the The Hunger Games is forced to endure the Games again, Octavia in The 100 is put in prison for being born, and the students at Central High in After must undergo the same strict rules as Pleasant Valley underwent, after the school shooting at Pleasant Valley. With that in mind, after reading After and hearing of the horrific conditions the students of Central High endured because of a shooting that occurred in another school fifty miles away, I began to wonder, what happens mentally to students who undergo punishment for crimes they never committed?
I know of a student who was taking a math exam at his high school, in which he was not allowed to have any notebooks or his book bag in the classroom with him during the exam. He, without thinking, brought a notebook with him to class and laid it down a few desks away from his desk just to be safe. During the exam, his teacher took the notebook that was laying a few desks away. After the exam was over, the teacher took the notebook to the principal to have the principal determine what the outcome for the student would be. The student was accused of cheating and given a zero for the exam and had to spend two hours in detention. The student was devastated. Anytime the subject was brought up, he would get tears in his eyes and would just confess that he messed up by having the notebook, but confessed he never cheated.
The psychological aspect of treating a person inappropriately because of a crime he or she did not commit is, at times, worse than committing the crime. Students that receive bad grades or have detention because of something that happened to them can take a negative toll on that student. In After, Tom’s character changed as the novel goes on and as the situation at Central High continues to worsen. In the beginning, we see that Tom is a fun, mischievous, and relaxed student who does not truly enjoy school, but endures and makes it fun with his friends, while he can. However, as the year goes on, we begin to see a shift in Tom’s attitude. He becomes irritated and does not enjoy being around anyone as much as he used to; he can’t stand school and eventually gets away from it all.
With all this in mind, my current assumptions about prosecution are swayed towards believing that there are negative implications that come with students who are treated wrongly for crimes they did not commit. Moreover, with more research to come, I believe it will become more clear as to what the actual results are of students who undergo punishment for crimes they did commit, and crimes they did not commit.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2009.
Francine, Prose. After. New York, NY, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
Rothenberg, Jason, et al. “Pilot.” The 100, CW, 19 Mar. 2014.