A Discussion of Whether Juveniles Should Be Tried as Adults or Not

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 to 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, 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 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 as, 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 polices 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 individuals 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 were there are other juveniles and when they reach an adult age of 18 then they can be sent to an adult prison.

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