Juvenile Criminals Should Not Be Tried as Adults

Juvenile Criminals Should Not Be Tried as Adults

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Juvenile Criminals Should Not Be Tried as Adults


Today?s court system is left with many difficult decisions. One of the most controversial being whether to try juveniles as adults or not. With the number of children in adult prisons and jails rising rapidly, questions are being asked as to why children have been committing such heinous crimes and how will they be stopped. The fact of the matter is that it is not always the children's fault for their poor choices and actions; they are merely a victim of their environment or their parents. Another question asked is how young is too young. Children who are too young to see an R rated film unaccompanied are being sent to adult prisons. The only boundaries that seem to matter when it comes to being an adult are laws that restrain kids from things such as alcohol, pornography, and other materials seen as unethical. Children that are sent to adult prison are going to be subjected to even more unprincipled ideas and scenes. When children can be sent to jail for something as minor as a smash and grab burglary, the judicial system has errors. The laws that send juveniles to adult prisons are inhumane, immoral, and unjust. Kids are often incompetent, which leads to unfair trials. Adult prisons are also very dangerous for minors, and in many cases this leads to more juvenile crimes.

People support sending juveniles to adult prisons for many reasons. One reason is that it is the job of the courts to help protect society. Once a troubled juvenile is sent to an adult prison, they are out of the way of society. Hopefully when they re-enter, the punishments they received will be imprinted in their brain and stop them from performing any wrong again. Another reason people think that disturbed youth cannot be saved is that punishment will not save them from themselves and they just need to be locked up forever. It is thought to be true that juveniles who are sent to jail will not commit the same crime again or even any crimes at all. All the reasons and opinions that say that juveniles should be sent to adult prisons for their heinous crimes seem logical. Despite this, they are not. There are more rational reasons why adolescents should be sent to their own private penitentiary.

One of the reasons for sending juveniles to a separate prison than

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123helpme.com/search.asp?text=adults">adults is because not only are these laws unfair but with a little rehabilitation these children can be saved from a lifetime in prison. The laws at times are not equal for the same crimes. Alex King and Lionel Tate committed the same crime and both live in the state of Florida. Though they both committed the same crime yet they received different punishments. King was set free after serving six years of his seven year sentence, while Tate is serving a full life term. They are only separated by three years in age and are both minors (Kaczor). Sentencing kids to a life long prison term basically kills all of their hopes and dreams because of one mistake in their life. If they are going to send kids away for life, it needs to be consistent. Sixteen year olds do not know that much more than thirteen year olds and they should both be charged as adolescents. The idea of putting a teenager away for life is unacceptable. They have lived such a short time and will never be able to see the outside world or live out the most important aspects of their past. These youngsters lack the experiences necessary to make good decisions. Minors should have a chance to make up for their mistakes. Rehabilitation will provide all they need to be reinstated as a significant member of society. They could go back to their normal lives and not even think about committing another crime. The only way court systems can charge juveniles is if they make it fair, equal and just, and right now the laws are not.

Another reason for sending juveniles to a separate prison from adults is that the youth may be incompetent. The main factor in this is knowing the difference between right and wrong. They all have the concept of right and wrong, but they do not always know. According to Bill Kaczor, children under the age of fifteen ?are less mentally competent than adults and often fail to recognize risks or realize the consequences of their actions? (Kaczor). Competency is also a factor because mentally-ill adults who commit such crimes are deemed incompetent in their trials. It is a lot more difficult for children to be on trial than adults. Children cannot be blamed for their incompetence because it is merely a factor of development. They are still growing and with physical growth comes maturity and experience, which a thirteen year old lacks. Like those with mental handicaps, children?s brains have not fully developed.

Trying children as adults and sending them to adult prisons is also endangering their safety. By law, when children are tried as adults, they must be sent to an adult prison if convicted. Once children are sent to these facilities, ?state and federal laws say they must be kept out of sight and sound of the adult prisoners? (Olsen). However, once they are sent to adult prisons, ?there are no separate facilities for children. So in the name of safety, children are often being placed in some of the harshest conditions in the state--what amounts to solitary confinement? (Olsen). Although it is thought that by doing this, it is keeping juveniles safe, it is actually the opposite. Even though they are away from the harm of other adult prisoners, these conditions can do a lot of psychological harm to kids. Studies have shown that the kids who are held in jails are eight times more likely to commit suicide then kids held in juvenile detention centers (Olsen). Juveniles are also a larger target than adults for assaults.

Trying kids as adults is also a bad idea because it often leads to juveniles committing more crimes upon their release. As a result of locking children away in these adult prisons, the young people became worse as a result of exposure to the more-hardened criminals. Kids held in adult prisons don?t get any kind of rehabilitation and they end up doing worse upon their release. This does not happen nearly as much when children are sent to juvenile detention centers where the goal is not only to punish them but also to rehabilitate them. Studies done by a Columbia University researcher have proven ?that teenagers prosecuted in adult court are more likely to continue with violence than peers routed to juvenile programs for the same crimes? (Greene). Many think that cracking down on serious juvenile crime and trying to scare kids straight by threatening them with adult sentences will decrease crime but this can lead to more crime later.

Children in today?s world are often looked down upon by their elders. People involved with the criminal justice system feel that locking kids up will make the world a safer place. They do this without any thought towards the child?s well-being. Although juvenile crime is greatly decreasing, the general public continues to fear that this crime wave will occur. Studies have proven that there has been ?a nearly 50 percent drop in the juvenile murder arrest rate from 1993 to 1998. Juvenile arrests for weapons violations dropped by a third between 1993 and 1998? (Adams). While juvenile crime is becoming less of a problem, the truth is that there are still juvenile criminals out there who need to be dealt with. Rather than sending children who have committed crimes to prison, one way to deal with them is to give them a mixed sentence. Force juveniles to work with the rehabilitation programs by threatening them with harder sentences should they not complete the program. This would give the children the incentive to stick with the rehabilitation program and encourage them to go straight. Possibly the best solution for this is to stop it before it starts. One way to do this would be for communities to step in. By putting an end to juvenile crime before it even starts all of these problems with juveniles in the judicial system would be able to be avoided and society would be much safer and happier for everyone.

Works Cited:

Adams, Lorraine. "Violent Crime Rates Down Among Young." The Washington Post 29 November 1999: A8

Greene, Ronnie. "Adult Prisons Breed Youth Crime, Study Finds." The Miami Herald.

Kaczor, Bill. "Justice uneven for young killers." The Associated Press 23 March 2003: 7B

Olsen, Matt. "Kids in the Hole." The Progressive: 26-29.
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