Criminal Justice Should Juveniles Be essay

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 7
  • Subject: Children
  • Type: essay
  • Paper: #25123714

Excerpt from essay :

This had lead to a growing number of states segregating juveniles and adults within the adult prison. Judges are also taking into account the availability of beds when they determine sentences for juveniles that have been tried as adults and may go so far as putting the youth on probation rather than putting them in an adult prison with adult prisoners (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2007).

It is often believed that if a child is old enough to do the crime, then they are old enough to do the time. While young people must be held accountable for serious crimes, the juvenile justice system was set up for precisely that reason. Channeling youth into the adult system does no good and in the end causes harm. Juveniles are not adults, and trying them in an adult court does not make them one. When these youth are tried in an adult criminal court they are not then seen as an adult for other purposes, such as voting and drinking. The common belief is that minors are developmentally less mature and responsible and more impulsive, erratic and vulnerable to negative peer pressure (Maroney, 2007).

A person's brain does not fully develop until around the age of 23. Because of this a teenager is less likely to realize if they realize at all just how bad a situation can get if they commit a crime. Most proponents do not feel that they should not be punished, but they believe that if they did the crime as a child they should be tried as a child. They should be tried and sentenced and when the system thinks that the offender has become stable and competent enough to be released, and then they should be. But not let out to go completely free. They need to be put on probation, and monitored by their probation officer as often as the court decides (Beeler, 2009).

As a person, a child is still an active work in progress. It is often hard to accept the logical consequences of that though. They are by nature less responsible than lawbreaking adults, even when they do things that are bad. So in the end we end up changing the rules in the middle of the game. "In the last decade, virtually every state has made it much easier to try juveniles as adults. These sweeping changes came amidst widespread alarm that a wave of "juvenile super predators" was coming -- which fortunately turned out to be false" (Maroney, 2007).

In some states there is no minimum age for which kids can be transferred to adult court for certain crimes. Most juvenile offenders do not grow up to become adult criminals. But when we punish them as adults, these odds are severely changed. It has been shown that teens tried as adults commit more crimes when released. Their educational and employment opportunities are noticeably worse, which creates an opportunity and incentive for them to commit more crime. The separate juvenile justice system was created to help lessen these harms along with preventing youth being preyed upon while in adult prisons. By trying children as adults we are sending them right back to very environment from which we were trying to protect them. The bad things is that there has never been any evidence to support that transferring youth to the adult system has reduced juvenile crime (Maroney, 2007).

"Some states have innovated alternatives to simply trying juveniles as adults, including "blended sentencing" programs, which, for example, allow youth offenders to be incarcerated in the juvenile system until the age of majority, followed by a period of adult incarceration or other sentence (O'Neill, 2008). It is thought that the theory behind the use of blended sentencing is that the objective of adult incarceration is aimed more towards punishment, while goal of juvenile detention is more about rehabilitation and the child's best interest (O'Neill, 2008).

Another argument about the increasingly number of youths being treated as adults in the legal system revolves around the central issue of jury trials for juveniles. Children that are tried as adults are not being tried by a jury of their peers, but by a jury of adults. Having a jury of one's peers is based on two things: that the jury will be made up of members from the defendant's community, and that the defendant is entitled to an impartial jury. "A central concern regarding jury trials for young offenders is that a jury comprised only of adults may hold attitudes about young people that will result in a systematic bias in decision making regarding juvenile defendants as compared to adult defendants" (Warling and Peterson-Badali, 2003).

Recently there has been a trend in the thinking that has led to a concern that the juvenile court is not able to deal with the new breed of delinquents that seem to be emerging. It is felt that the court is outdated and that it was never intended in the first place to deal with serious and violent juvenile offenders. There has been a call for tougher juvenile laws in order to prosecute juvenile offenders as adults. Between 1990 and 1996, forty states passed laws to make it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults. Many of these new laws also made juvenile records which had once been confidential, now widely available. Juvenile proceedings which once were closed were now open in certain cases, and statues that once stressed rehabilitation and the best interest of the child were redone to emphasize punishment and protection of the public (Tanenhaus and Drizin, 2003).

Historically, the goal of the juvenile justice system has been the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. Youth that could not be reformed or rehabilitated within the juvenile system were transferred to the adult system. Juvenile courts have always had the ability for the removal of the most serious juvenile offenders from the juvenile justice system to adult court. But it was once an exception and not the overall general policy. All states now allow juveniles to be transferred to adult court, with the standards for waiver varying from state to state. Because transfer to adult court is a decision that can have serious consequences, it is believed that it should be limited to cases where it is truly warranted. Research indicates that transfer does nothing to reduce the rate of reoffending. In fact it has been shown that transferring juveniles to adult court may actually increase recidivism rates. "Often, juveniles who are incarcerated with adults leave prison hardened and embittered, possibly due to the psychological and physical trauma they may endure. Juveniles in adult institutions are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff and fifty percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than minors in juvenile facilities (Steward-Lindsey, 2006).

Juvenile crime legislation and policy have become more punitive over the past decade which has blurred the lines between juvenile and adult justice systems. Despite signs from research on recidivism and deterrence that it may be counterproductive to treat juveniles as if they were adults, more and more juveniles are being held and incarcerated, even though there is evidence that most juveniles can be treated equally or more effectively in the community than in lock up, without jeopardizing community safety (McCord, Spatz-Widom, and Crowell, 2001).

In response to juvenile crime it is essential to establish programs that are aimed at preventing along with dealing with young people who have committed criminal acts. These programs may located in a variety of institutional settings, including schools, community-based organizations, religious organizations, mental health settings, and the formal juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems (McCord, Spatz-Widom, and Crowell, 2001).

In looking at programs that deal with prevention it has been found that very few of these programs even exist. The most effective crime prevention programs address a range of difficulties. Approaches that are successful in reducing delinquency include multiple components for parents, youngsters, and the environment and target multiple behaviors. These types of programs appear to be more useful than narrowly focused programs. Several widely used and well-evaluated intervention strategies have been found to actually increase delinquency instead of reducing it (McCord, Spatz-Widom, and Crowell, 2001).

The reason that the juvenile justice system was established separate from the adult justice system was in order to divert youthful offenders from the destructive punishments of criminal courts and encouraging rehabilitation based on the individual juvenile's needs. There has always been a tension between social welfare and social control. The focus has been on the best interests of the child instead of focusing on punishment, incapacitation, and protecting society from certain offenses. This tension has shifted and grown over time and has varied significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction since no uniform rules exist (McCord, Spatz-Widom, and Crowell, 2001).

Information surrounding the number of juveniles that are currently in detention centers, jails, juvenile correctional facilities, or adult correctional facilities is very poor. Information on the…

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