Sentencing of Juveniles

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The Sentencing of Juveniles

Today, we live in a society faced with many problems, including crime and the fear that it creates. In the modern era, juveniles have become a part of society to be feared, not rehabilitated. The basis of the early juvenile justice system was to rehabilitate and create safe havens for wayward youth. This is not the current philosophy, although the U.S. is one of the few remaining countries to execute juveniles. Presently, our nation is under a presidential administration that strongly advocates the death penalty, including the execution of juveniles. The media and supporters of capital punishment warn of the "superpredator," the juvenile with no fear, remorse, or conscience. Opponents of this view encourage the idea that another death is only revenge, not deterrence. We will examine the rights allotted to juvenile offenders, and the punishments inflicted upon them for violations of the law.

Juvenile Transfers and Waivers

For those juveniles deemed dangerous, or those that have committed a serious crime, a different process would follow their initial contact with the court. This involves the removal of the offender from the juvenile system, to be transferred to the adult criminal court. These offenders are adjudicated as an adult if certain factors are present. The waiver to the adult court is often a critical step in receiving a harsh sentence for juveniles. Two Supreme Court cases have addressed the issue of juvenile waivers and transfers, Kent v. United States and Breed v. Jones. The two cases resulted in specific requirements for transfer hearings, including a) a legitimate transfer hearing b) sufficient notice to family and defense attorney c) right to counsel d) a statement regarding reason for the transfer. However, the waiver of juveniles is often criticized by experts for various reasons. "Minors are likely to be looked upon as special persons by prosecutors, probation officers, and judges in the criminal courts. They are younger than the main population of defendants before the criminal courts…while a minor may be looked upon as a hardened criminal in the juvenile court, (s)he may be viewed as a mere innocent youngster in criminal court." (Abadinsky 72). Some research has shown that the transfer of juveniles is a waste of both time and money. Why? Because the offender often receives the same treatment or senten...

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...ny high profile issue, and in this case we are dealing with the lives of young offenders, many of which claim their age excuses their "mistake." While society must recognize the issues that often fuel adolescent rage, we should be hesitant to withhold punishment. In death row cases, many inmates will reside on death row for more than ten years before being executed. During this time, they undergo many changes, both physically and psychologically and often feel like a different man, and certainly not a violent threat to society. Moreover, we are not executing men (and women) for the people they have become, but for the crime they committed. Their victims did not receive a second chance, so why should we as a society grant convicted killers the chance to live, love, and grow? However, the death penalty must be examined for flaws, including incorporating DNA technology whenever possible. Age has obviously been an important factor in the debate over the death penalty, but we must realize we live in an age of violent school shootings and declining alternatives for misplaced youth. Society should not advocate the death of innocents, but vindicate a willful and deliberate loss of life.
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