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Juveniles as Adults: Pros and Cons
Severe and continuing juvenile offenders are progressively being tried as adults in criminal court all over the country. These juveniles face incarcerations in adult correctional facilities and the dangers that come from being with an adult criminal population. This type of movement poses significant inquiries for policy makers. To what degree do trials in criminal courts and imprisonment in adult reformatories endorse or hinder community security and the answerability and reintegration of juvenile offenders? This research paper deliberates on the legal consequences of adjudication in criminal court and offers a comprehensive review of research discoveries on the preventive effects of transfer laws, sentencing patterns and conviction and recidivism rates in juvenile as opposed to criminal courts, and programming and conditions in juvenile as opposed to adult correctional facilities. The pros and cons of trying juveniles as adults are discussed along with the evidence to determine which side works best.
In 1990, the amount of juveniles relocated to adult court had augmented by 2/3 over the amount relocated in 1986, and this figure has only increased given past and current legislative vagaries. Several states enacted legislation, lowering the minimum age to 12-14 at which juveniles may face the possibility of being tried as adults for severe crimes. These changes may raise an issue of competence. Children aged 12-14 may not have the mental competence to stand trial in an adult court, furthermore, if punished, they may not fare well in adult prisons, with violence against juveniles occurring within these facilities. Competence to stand trial was recognized by the United States Supreme Court in "Dusky v. United States (1960), the test must be whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and a rational as well as a factual understanding of proceedings against him" (Cooper, 1997, pp. 170-171). The Dusky ruling is the current foundation for all state rulings regarding competence to stand trial.
Teens and children subjected to trials as adults are forced to undergo all criminal proceedings under the assumption they are competent and fit to stand trial. This may not be the case. Although some would suggest the harsher penalties and consequences of being tried as adult may rehabilitate the juvenile offender or even set an example for other potential juvenile offenders, evidence suggests otherwise. Little research is done acknowledging the possible incompetence of children and teens who are tried as adults. "However, the idea that adolescents may not be competent to stand trial due to cognitive or developmental immaturity has not previously been addressed in judicial practice" (Cooper, 1997, pp. 170-171).
Review of the Research
The cons of trying juveniles as adults are several. The current literature states how juveniles get transferred to adult courts to be tried as adults. "Blended Sentencing, occurs in approximately half the states, both juveniles and criminal courts are allowed to impose a juvenile or adult sanctions on certain juveniles (usually dependent on ages of juveniles and crime charged) (Bartol, 2011, pp. 190). While the process does not occur as frequently as one would imagine, it has increased over the years based on the growing number of cases and growing severity of crimes. There may be a link to the increase number of juvenile delinquents and the harsher sentences.
Rehabilitation of a criminal tends to be the main purpose of punishments and prison sentences. They are meant to teach the delinquent to understand that their criminal activities will be punished according to the law. However evidence shows rehabilitation of juveniles may not be as successful as anticipated. "There is plenty of research evidence to suggest that common -- and popular-approaches such as boot camps and prison sentences are not effective in reducing crime, though they may make politicians and members of the public feel good" (Bartol, 2011, pp. 191). Kids and teens when forced to go to adult prisons and face the consequences of being tried as an adult face a future of issues and possible mental breakdown.
Some defendants are not aware of what is going on and may confess to something they did not do out of pressure or coercion. "In one case for example, a lawyer familiar with our research was able to demonstrate that his clients did not adequately comprehend their rights prior to giving statements to the police.…[continue]
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Another factor to consider when determining if Jason should be tried in an adult court focuses on the child's ability to respond to treatment. It is important to understand that juvenile court is much more adapted to the rehabilitative aspect of corrections than the adult court, where little mercy and stiff penalties are the norm in today's prison culture society. The focus should then shift to Jason's individual characteristics and abilities
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They must also determine what types of delinquent behavior and youth violence are causing the greatest concern in the community. (Medaris, 1996, para.# 5) As can be seen from the above statement of the first step in implementing the SHOCAP program in any community, first look at statistics on juvenile crime and second ask the community what it is most afraid of with regard to juvenile crime. This intention seriously
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