US teen-vandals sentenced to 'read books' learn their lesson

A judge's gavel.
Photo credit: Getty

A judge who sentenced a group of teenage vandals to read books seems to have discovered an effective new form of juvenile punishment.

In 2017, Virginia judge Avelina Jaco, accepted a plan by prosecutor Alejandra Rueda to order five boys, aged 16 and 17, who admitted spraying racist graffiti on an historic building to an unusual punishment.

Prosecutor Rueda was convinced the boys did not fully appreciate the significance of the symbols  including swastikas - and language they had used.

Thirty-five book titles were then compiled from which the boys chose 12 to read and write monthly essays about the content. They were also required to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of American History.

Since undergoing the sentence, none of the boys have re-offended and other offenders have been sentenced to similar terms in the state.

One of the boys in question agreed to let the World Economic Forum (WEF) publish part of his final essay, written after a full year of reading.

"I feel especially awful after writing this paper about how I made anybody feel bad. Everybody should be treated with equality, no matter their race or religion or sexual orientation. I will do my best to see to it that I am never this ignorant again."

Rueda told WEF the teenagers' essays proved how little they had understood the significance of what they had done.

The recommended reading list in full:

1. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

2. Native Son - Richard Wright

3. Exodus - Leon Uris

4. Mila 18 - Leon Uris

5. Trinity - Leon Uris

6. My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok

7. The Chosen - Chaim Potok

8. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

9. Night - Elie Wiesel

10. The Crucible - Arthur Miller

11. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

12. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

13. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

14. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

15. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

16. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

17. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

18. Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

19. Tortilla Curtain - TC Boyle

20. The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

21. A Hope in the Unseen - Ron Suskind

22. Down These Mean Streets - Piri Thomas

23. Black Boy - Richard Wright

24. The Beautiful Struggle - Ta-Nehisi Coates

25. The Banality of Evil - Hannah Arendt

26. The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

27. Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

28. The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang

29. Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

30. The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson

31. The Help - Kathryn Stockett

32. Cry the Beloved Country - Alan Paton

33. Too Late the Phalarope - Alan Paton

34. A Dry White Season - Andre Brink

35. Ghost Soldiers - Hampton Sides

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