For many years, juvenile criminals have been accorded special treatment in the courts. In recent years, however, the public has become dissatisfied with that system. Many people are insisting that juveniles who have committed criminal acts, be treated as criminals in spite of their age.
I do not think it is a good idea to lock juveniles up in prisons with adults. For a child to set down and plan a murder, for instance, there would have to be some kind of deep emotional problem. On the other side of this, if the child knows right from wrong and he can sit down and plan a murder, then you could say if he is old enough to kill someone then he is old enough to die.
The juvenile criminal is rooted much deeper than right from wrong. It starts back from when they are small children. Most of them are usually outsiders or outcasts. Who can you hold fault for that other than society? If juveniles don’t fit in with the popular kids in school they are considered an outcast. Even the teachers hold some responsibility for this. It is the popular kids that get to do everything and the quiet ones are left out and unnoticed.
Parents are to be blamed to some extent too. They do not take the time to notice that their children are being teased and left out of everything because their kids do not tell them and they do not ask. Their parents are completely unaware that their own kids are hurting so bad inside that they are in their bedrooms planning murders and making bombs.
Kids that are making fun of other kids, the parents are often unaware or ignore the fact that a juvenile can cause harm to another juvenile just by words alone. Society needs to stop thinking that some children are better than other children just because they are popular.
They all need attention. It is not only children who are made fun of who commit terrible crimes, but it is also kids who have everything and feel the need for attention. They feel the need to do something drastic in order to grab their parent’s attention. Many of the kids who planned school massacres come from middle-income families. In my opinion, there is more than just the child who does wrong. It is society, parents, and schools.
William Hurst, a researcher for the National Center for Juvenile Justice, says, “Now prosecutors decide entirely based on the crime. They do not take the time to investigate the social history of the child. They just ask, “ what did this kid do?” Many of them are driven by political considerations and want to run for offices based on getting tough on crime. They know they are just damning kids, but want to appear tough. They send thirteen and fourteen-year-olds away for punishment. If you really want to create a monster then see what happens to a child who is locked up in prison for years.”(Juvenile crime).
“It has become politically expedient to call for the imprisonment of children alongside adults. But this is no way to reduce crime,” says Ira Glassner, the executive director for the ACLU. “After the horrors, these kids experience in prison, they are likely to commit far more serious crimes upon release than they did before they went in.” (About.com) They need to put these kids in some kind of crime prevention program than a correctional facility. Studies have been shown to reduce crime substantially when compared to imprisonment after crimes have been committed.
There are questions raised. Are kids easier to rehabilitate than adults, or is a violent child on the inescapable road toward becoming an even more violent adult? What age should a murderer pay the ultimate price for his crime and in society’s mind will allow a child to be executed? According to the American Bar Association on a number of surveys, the public doesn’t take as hard a stand against even serious juvenile offenders as the media would have us believe.
Within 24 hours of a violent crime, newspapers and magazines devote themselves to coverage of every fact, opinion, and theory. This news coverage makes the public take notice of these crimes of juveniles. In most crimes, the offender’s identities are hidden and their criminal records are expunged when they reach adulthood. What age should they face the same penalties as adults?
Many people blame society for children’s violent behavior. Society has done something wrong to produce such troubled youth and now wants to condemn them as unalterable criminals. Studies have shown that children who suffer from neglect and abuse are often the ones who do commit these crimes. According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, between 1985 and 1994 the number of cases that juvenile judges sent to adult courts increased by 71%, from 7,200 to 12,300 cases annually.
New laws mean thousands of more youth will go the same direction. Most states require that the child be at least fourteen, but in Nebraska and Michigan, there is no minimum age. In 36 states, the state legislatures have passed laws to exclude all seventeen-year-olds and in some cases all sixteen-year-olds from the juvenile courts. Three of the 36 states, Indiana, Vermont, and South Dakota are now sending ten-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. Some states are even passing a law that “three strikes and you’re an adult” automatically sends juveniles with records to the adult criminal justice system.
If an eleven-year-old can be charged as an adult and if twenty-year-olds are too young to buy beer, then who is an adult these days and who isn’t. Across America, prosecutors are pushing to try more juveniles as adults. Yet at the same time, law-abiding adolescents are subject to restrictions that treat them as non-adults such as curfews, parental-consent requirements, and a range of zero-tolerance policies at school.
A bill is trying to be pushed through the Senate that would mandate adult prosecution of children as young as thirteen, to encourage states to hold parents criminally responsible for their children’s acts, open juvenile records to the public and, for the first time, allow children to be housed with adult prisoners.
This bill would also expand the greatest crime against children: allowing the execution of those who committed crimes when they were as young as sixteen. The Supreme Court has ruled that the execution of juveniles as young as sixteen is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Overcrowded prisons are already a concern for many states. So if juveniles are being sent to these prisons, something will have to be done to build new prisons. My opinion is that juveniles have no business in adult prisons. They should be put in some type of rehabilitation program. Many people do not want to think about what happens to these kids. Just lock them up and throw away the key. We must find out why so many juveniles are committing crimes.
Congress is debating right now on whether or not to build juvenile prisons, and hire additional juvenile judges and prosecutors. Other measures are to mandate increased sentences for adults who sell guns to minors.
In the past juvenile judges took information from parents, educators, and social workers to evaluate an individual’s social history, family, and peer situation. Judges made a decision based on the best interest of that child and put them into rehabilitation programs. Should all juvenile crimes be handled alike? That is, should the criminal’s age be considered in certain crimes such as shoplifting compared to rape. Will publicizing juvenile crime deter other juveniles from committing crimes?
Is there an answer to this growing problem? When a juvenile does an adult crime, they do need to be punished for the crime they have done, however, they do not belong in an adult prison. They should be sent to a place where there are other juveniles and when they reach an adult age of 18 then they can be sent to an adult prison.
Grown enough to commit a crime, adult enough to do time,” is a common phrase utilized by people, mainly when they simplify the issue of young criminals treated to the adult justice system. In the U. S, about two hundred and fifty thousand youths face prosecution yearly in the adult criminal system (Arya, 2012, pp. 1). The move arises due to the belief that the serious crimes they commit such as rape, kidnapping, robbery, murder, and drug crimes qualify their treatment as adults.
Adolescence is a stage in the development of a human characterized by different changes among them the evolution of the character. These changes point to the fact that one’s behavior or actions do not dictate their future, they reflect the environment they grow up in, and their lack of maturity that in my opinion, shows they do not deserve similar treatment to adults. Therefore, juveniles should never be tried as adults due to various reasons.
Reasons why juveniles should never be tried as adults
First, trying juveniles as adults portrays a double standard. Fairness is a virtue that every human being seeks from others in a different situation, and one protected by the constitution. The United States law applies logic and consideration in developing regulations that guide minors.
It argues that individuals under the age of eighteen years old are immature, irresponsible, highly susceptible to manipulation and capable of change. Moreover, psychologists in agreement support the notion that minor’s mental development is not at its peak hence, do not fully grasp right and wrong. In this regard, the government prohibits minors from adult responsibilities such as smoking, drinking, voting, and joining the military.
Therefore, believing that they are not capable of the above activities and then holding them to the standards of adults is unfair and wrong, as it is clear that minors are not adults (McCrea, 2008, pp.3). Moreover, most of them commit criminal acts because of mischievousness as opposed to intent. Thus, it is prejudicial to subject a child’s whole life to a long life of condemnation and suffering for mistakes; they did in their prime years.
Second, sociological studies allude that an individual’s environment plays a vital role in shaping their mental, physical, and physiological well-being. In particular, the kind of surroundings a child grows in determines their understanding of right from wrong and guides them in either deviating or engaging in moral or immoral actions. Statistics estimate that one-third of all violent criminal acts conducted by children are among children from underprivileged homes, struggling communities, and those that experience different types of abuse such as domestic violence and verbal abuse (Castro, Muhammad, & Arthur, 2012, pp. P3).
Hence, these factors make minors vulnerable to criminal behavior. Accordingly, it is unjustifiable and erroneous to hold children to the same standards as an adult as they can are likely to be manipulated and tricked brought upon by environmental factors that define their nurture and which they have no control over.
Third, the trying of minors using the adult justice system contravenes the Eighth Amendment of the U.S constitution. According to this Amendment, every individual is protected from excessive bail and fines and from receiving cruel and unusual punishment (Equal Justice Initiative, 2017). Various courts have made significant judgments and articulations that seek to protect the minors. In the 2005 Supreme Court Judgment in Roper v. Simmons, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for juveniles to face execution.
Further, in 2010, the court decided that juvenile offenders should not receive life-without-parole sentences if their crimes were not homicides. Moreover, in the 2012 Miller v. Alabama case, the Supreme Court pronounced the sentence of life-without-parole for children aged seventeen and below as unconstitutional (Equal Justice Initiative, 2017). Henceforth, since the Supreme Court is the highest court that interprets the law, trying minors as adults are disobedience to the Constitution, which is a criminal offense.
Fourth, trying minors as adults and subsequently imprisoning them in adult prisons results in destructive effects to young prisoners. Young prisoners are vulnerable to various vices in adult prisons. When these circumstances force them to face the reality of long sentences with minimal or no chances whatsoever to get out, they develop stress and depression that increase their likelihood of committing suicide (McCrea, 2008, pp.3). In adult penitentiaries, on projection, a minor is five times more likely to suffer sexual assault and rape than in juvenile holding.
Criminologists attribute this to the fact that most juvenile arrestees fit the prison victim profile of rape, as they are young and in most instances helpless. Due to this, they are subject to numerous attacks. Moreover, there is an increasing trend of assaults by prison staff towards prisoners in prisons, and minors bare the blunt. Additionally, due to fear, they are less likely to report abuse cases. Thus, the cycle of violence continues. Hence, adult prisons pose serious risks and dangers to the minor’s, actions that under the law shield them and since they are illegal in the eyes of the law, it constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Fifth, studies agree that treating juvenile criminals to the adult justice system does not decrease recidivism; instead, it increases their criminal activities. The primary reason why most juveniles face adult justice system is to inflict harsh punishments that deter them from future criminality.
However, according to a research report by the School of law at the University of California, there is minimal, or no deterrence achieved through the prosecution of minors as adults. According to the report, in fifteen states, eighty-two percent of juveniles released from prisons were re-arrested (Scialabba, 2016).
Youths are irrational, immature, and continuously require parental figures to guide them and direct them positively towards changing their behavior. However, when incarcerated with adults, their guidance and protection are from criminals making them prone to negative influence.
Thus, once in jail, the various negative experiences of assault, rape, and harassment pushes them to adopt similar behavior. In a bid to survive, they look for protection and in most instances end up joining gangs and utilizing weapons. Moreover, in adult prisons, children lack rehabilitative measures of counseling, education, and training (Castro, Muhammad, & Arthur, 2012, pp. P2). Thus, upon release, the experiences and deficiencies of the system make it difficult for them to fit in and experience a normal life. Hence, they revert to old behavior or worse that cost their freedom and eventually end up in prison again.
Prosecution of minors as adults represent a failure in today’s justice system. The system subjects the youngest and the least privileged members of society to a cycle of violence and harm without allowing for rehabilitation and forgiveness. The Juvenile justice system primarily works to reform and punish minor offenders while preparing them for the future. Nevertheless, since some of the criminalities committed are extreme, the system decides otherwise.
Bumping juveniles to adult courts, however, is wrong as not only does it infringe on their constitutional rights, it subjects them to all manner of harm and abuse, fails to caution the society on the resulting human beings the process produces, and creates a more significant problem of recidivism. Hence, minors should never face the adult justice system.
The purpose of this essay is to determine whether juveniles should be tried as adults under the criminal court system. The age of a juvenile according to most laws is 18 years and below.
However, different states have different ages that define who a juvenile in; for instance, Wyoming has acknowledged 19 years to be the age of a juvenile, while states such as New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina, one is recognized as a juvenile when he/she is under the age of 16.
Knowing the age of a person suspected to be a juvenile is vital because this will assist the authorities to decide which court the individual should be charged in. (Juvenile Law Par. 1).
Juvenile Court Systems and Laws
When it comes to determining whether a juvenile offender will be tried as an adult, juvenile court judges usually look at the seriousness of the alleged offense and the need to protect the community from the juvenile offender, the nature of the offense; whether it was violent, premeditated or aggressive, the amount of damage that resulted from the offense, whether the offense was committed against a person or property, the level of maturity of the juvenile offender, whether they have a criminal record or records of achievements and the likelihood of whether the offender can be rehabilitated by the juvenile criminal system (Cassel and Bernstein 42).
Juvenile laws have become very punitive in the recent past to deal with the increasing cases of juvenile delinquency around the world. The general argument that underlies these changes is that juvenile offenders should be held accountable for their criminal behavior by receiving punishments that are equivalent to their crimes.
The juvenile laws have also suggested that the current juvenile justice systems do not offer any important psychological differences between juveniles and adults when considering their criminal responsibility. Despite their being declines in violent crimes committed by juveniles in America, all states have revised and adopted juvenile law policies that will be used to increase the prosecution of juveniles as adults (Free 159).
An example of a state that has adopted new juvenile policies is California which passed the Gang Violence and Youth Crime Prevention Act in March 2000. This act would see juveniles who are 14 years and over being tried as adults for any type of violent crime. This act gave state prosecutors the alternative of transferring juvenile cases that were violent or had gang involvement to the adult court without any judicial reviews (Free 159).
States that support the prosecution of juvenile offenders below the age of 14 in adult courts include Arizona who age limit is ten, Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland whose juvenile offender age is seven, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, South Dakota and Vermont (Hile 30).
Arguments For and Against Trying Juveniles in Adult Court Systems
Arguments that have arisen for trying juvenile offenders as adults are that violence committed by juveniles is viewed to be a serious problem and it should be dealt with in an effective and efficient manner. Other arguments are that juvenile courts are not effective when it comes to dealing with violence committed by juveniles.
The punishments and sentences that are meted out by juvenile courts are not usually appropriate to the kind of crime that has been committed (Cole and Smith 398). Other arguments that have arisen on trying children as adults are that the procedures used in waiving juvenile jurisdictions are usually problematic and cumbersome in many states in America. Criminal justice and law requires that any violent or heinous crimes committed by a person regardless of their age should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
Despite these arguments, there are those who continue to propose that violent juvenile offenders should be dealt with by the juvenile court system. Many legal and juvenile experts have argued that trying juveniles as adults will only make things worse. Their main argument is that trying juveniles as adults means that the legal system has failed to consider their social and emotional development which is different from that of adults (Cole and Smith 398).
The arguments that have been raised for not trying juveniles as adults are that; the juvenile system has the appropriate mechanisms that can be used to deal with the social and emotional problems of juvenile offenders, general criminal laws around the world recognize that children have diminished capacities and responsibilities for their actions, meting out adult punishments to juvenile offenders robs them of their childhood and threatens their psychological development.
Such arguments have put pressure on legislators to lower the age of adulthood so that violent cases for serious juvenile offenders can be tried in the adult court system. This has however been viewed to be a futile exercise given that different states have different guidelines and procedures that are used to determine the appropriate age of a juvenile.
Some legal experts have argued that setting artificial guidelines to be used in determining whether a juvenile is an adult will restrict the ability of the court system to convict the juvenile offenders based on the type of crime they have committed (Hile 32).
The main argument that has been identified in the essay is that juvenile offenders who have mostly committed violent crimes should be tried and prosecuted in the adult criminal court system. This is mostly because the juvenile system does not provide the necessary punitive actions that can be used to deal with serious juvenile offenders.
Arguments in the essay have shown that to counter the juvenile system’s poor punishments, serious offenders should be tried in the adult court systems which have been viewed to be more punitive and strict when it comes to serious violent crimes.
The current judiciary system faces a controversy while treading juveniles committing serious crimes. On the one hand, youth falling under the category from 12-17 should not be tried in the adult court system because of their emotional immaturity and inability to control their impulses.
On the other hand, individuals committing as severe crimes as adults do should undergo severe punishment. Such a perspective raises a number of questions concerning the reasonableness of the current juvenile systems, as well as measures that should be taken while treating difficult teenagers.
In this respect, there should not be a clear distinction between juveniles arrested for crimes of various degrees of severity. Nevertheless, teenagers cannot be tried as adults because of their psychological immaturity, distinct competence, and greater potential for psychological change.
Certainly, there are some obvious cases of juvenile cruelty that do not permit the community to consider the case because of the teenager’s emotional instability and family problems. Murder cannot be justified by all means. However, society must not “…give up hope of rehabilitating a child who commits a crime” (Clouse 599).
Teenagers are not stable enough in terms of their emotional perception of the surrounding events. Due to the lack of a healthy family environment, as well as other cases of social pressure, they often resort to measures that rigidly contradict the norms accepted in a civilized society.
Therefore, if there is a chance to save a child from custody, social institutions should take advantage of it. In addition to the above-presented deliberations, there are a plethora of studies supporting juvenile rehabilitation rather than adult imprisonment. Specifically, the researchers agree that giving an opportunity for a teenager to go through a juvenile system with rehabilitation, education, counseling, and mentoring increases the possibility for an individual to become a normal member of society.
In contrast, a child serving in an adult jail is unlikely to adjust to a society (Steinberg 603). Indeed, there should be experienced counselors and psychologists that can train problematic youth to control their unstable and immature emotions and understand the consequences of their actions. Finally, earlier identification of teenagers’ psychological problems can reduce the number of crimes in the future since many adult criminals resort to outlaw actions since their young years.
Certainly, it is impossible to sentence all adolescents to equal punishment due to the different degrees of crimes they commit. Moreover, most juveniles should be transferred to adult prisons for the safety of teenagers whose crimes are less severe (Collier 610). Such a decision can contribute to safety measures in such institutions.
Most of the problems children face misconceptions on the part of adults and, therefore, the task of a counselor is to notice such children before they pose a threat to society. Reconsidering the overall situation with juvenile delinquency is crucial to create new circumstances under which these criminals will be treated.
Despite the fact that teenagers are capable of committing serious crimes as adults, the government should still reevaluate their outlook on the juvenile system. Certainly, some teenagers deserve to be tried as adults regarding their severe crimes.
Nevertheless, their emotionally unstable characteristics provide greater chances for them to revamp their social perception and restore accepted moral and social values. Therefore, youth committing serious crimes should be taken under the control of counselors whose primary goal is to identify such teenagers before they infringe the law.
Arguably, the rate of criminal activities carried out by teens is tremendously increasing. As a matter of fact, the question should juvenile criminals be tried as adults have become a controversial issue in the world today. Nearly everyone from politicians, lawyers to judges express their opinions on the issue, and because everyone is controversially concerned there is no real conclusion that has been reached. The court systems in the global arena are left with the hard task of making decisions.
For many years, children have committed heinous crimes just like adults, and how they will be stopped has become another significant problem. In most cases, children commit crimes, not because of their choice, but because they are victims of the environment and family that were brought up. Research shows that the main objective of creating juvenile courts was to treat and guide instead of punishing.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the general public emphasized getting hard-hitting with juveniles by trying them just like adults. Some of the states passed laws that made it easier for the court to try children offenders just like adults; on the other hand, some States unconditionally opposed the move to try children as adults. In a general perspective, child offenders should be tried as adults.
Certainly, juvenile offenders should be tried as adults for many reasons. The main objective of undergoing trial in court is to administer justice and reduce criminal activities in society. Juvenile courts in most cases have failed to deter youthful offenders from committing a crime and other violence-related offenses. Hence, it is evident that the existence of a juvenile court system will not help in reducing crime in society and deterring juveniles from criminal activities.
In addition, juvenile rapists and murderers are always released after lenient and short sentences; this will lead to the continuation of criminal activities among the youth. The families of the victims are left to suffer forever, yet the offenders are happy and live peacefully in the society (Hile 20).
Moreover, juvenile offenders should undergo a trial as adults in order to reduce crime. In fact, trying juveniles as adults will prevent them from committing additional criminal activities. In society, everyone should be accountable for his or her offense. Just like adults, teens should be held answerable for their crimes and actions and be tried always as adults.
Some assert that children learn from their parents; this is not the case, children are supposed to learn from criminal acts and bad actions of their parents. It is crucial to comprehend that the morals of the children and adults are inherent since birth. Juvenile courts carry out their operations with the conjecture that the offenders in question are young and immature.
Therefore, juvenile offenders should be tried as adults since the case will be judged on the essence of the crime committed (Cole et al 68). When the juvenile offenders are tried as adults the development of the case is complete, judgments are mature, and deterrence of crime will be achieved. Therefore, for better execution of justice and correctional procedure to be effective juvenile offenders should be tried as adults.
On the other hand, other scholars and individuals assert that juvenile offenders should not be tried as adults.
On most occasions, juveniles are not conversant with the legal system, laws, and regulations of a nation. This implies that it will be extremely unfair to try juveniles as adults because adults commit crime knowing the consequences. When children are tried as adults, they will be sent to prison if found guilty; hence, children will be subjected to unprincipled, unethical, and bad ideas (Watkins 57). This sort of environment will make children undergo hardships, which will lead to rude and prone to commit a crime.
Moreover, the laws that supposed juvenile to be tried as adults are unjust, inhumane, and immoral. Children are always incompetent and innocent, which may lead to undue trials and executions. It is worth noting that adult prisons are dangerous to juvenile offenders, and this will increase juvenile crimes. Changing social environment that juveniles live actually help in changing the behaviors of the juvenile than punishing juvenile by subjecting them to adult courts and correctional process (Hile 35).
Based on issues of maturity, opposing proponents assert that children are immature and always learn from their parents and society. Hence, in will be unfair to hold the juvenile accountable at equal standards as adult offenders.
The argument for and against juvenile tried as an adult is reasonably true. Those in support of the issue focus on the administration of justice in society regardless of age. As a matter of fact, any criminal justice system is meant to correct the offenders. Therefore, proposing and opposing the juvenile being tried as adults should lead to an ultimate objective of correcting offenders, instead of making them hardcore criminals (Watkins 90).
On both occasions, justice should be administered to both the victim and the offender. It is evident that the environment in adult prisons has the potential of changing the character of the juvenile offender negatively. Meaning, there should be a consideration of the future life of the juvenile offender.
In concussion, supporting reasons why juveniles should be tried as adults seem to outdo the reasons against. The correctional system that juvenile offenders are subjected to should lead to a fair administration of justice. Trying juvenile offenders as adults will deter them from criminal activities.
Evidently, trying juvenile offenders as adults will serve the real purpose of criminal justice systems. Parents and other responsible stakeholders should advise their children on criminal issues, and nurture them in a positive way. Hence, juvenile criminals should be tried as adults.