The reason that juvenile courts were originally created inthe nineteenth century was because society recognized that juveniles did nothave the cognitive development that adults have. It is wrong to hold a childwho has not reached legal age to adult standards. In other areas of law,America recognizes the differences between children and adults. Children are not granted the same rights andresponsibilities as adults, like smoking and joining the military, becauseAmerica recognizes a child’s inability to make adult decisions. Why don’tAmericans recognize the same difference in the criminal law? One doesn’t say to oneself “this is avery important election, so let the kids vote” nor does one think”this is a very important war so let’s give children weapons and send themto fight”.
So, why do American’ssay “this case is different and this kid deserves to be treated as anadult and locked away in a prison”? The writer believes juveniles should not be put in adult prisons. An estimated 250,000 youth aretried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the UnitedStates. On any given day, nearly 7,500 young people are locked up in adultjails.
On any given night in America, 10,000 children are held in adult jailsand prisons. The overwhelming majority of juveniles who enter adult court arenot there for serious, violentcrimes. Youth of color areover-represented at every stage of the juvenile justice system, and in thetransfer process. Thirty-nine states permit or require that youth charged asadults be held pre-trial in an adult jail. Two states currently try all sixteenand seventeen year-olds as adults, regardless of crime (NC and NY).
Youthhoused in adult institutions are 36 times more likely to commit suicide thanare youth housed in facilities for those under the age of 18. Twenty-onepercent and thirteen percent of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmatesexual violence in jails in 2005 and 2006 respectively, were youth under theage of 18; though only 1% of jail inmates are juveniles. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, youth who are transferred from thejuvenile court system to the adult criminal system are thirty-four percent morelikely than youth retained in the juvenile system to be re-arrested for violentor other crime. As many as half of the youth tried in adult court will be sentback to the juvenile justice system or not convicted at all.
Yet most of theseyouth will have spent at least one month in an adult jail, and one in five willhave spent over six months in an adult jail (Baron, 2017). How does society best meet theneeds of both juveniles and society when addressing this component of thecriminal justice system? The courts have passed many laws since 1870 and theyall seem to bounce between “this is a criminal” and “this is a child.” There isa tension between social welfare and social control, that is; some focus on thebest interests of the individual child versus focusing on punishment,incapacitation, and protecting society from certain offenses. This tension hasshifted over time and has varied significantly from jurisdiction tojurisdiction, and it remains today. In Graham v. Florida, the U.
S. struck downas unconstitutional the imposition of a life without parole sentence on ajuvenile offender who did not commit homicide. Although the court found thatthe state need not guarantee the offender eventual release, it held that ifsuch a sentence is imposed on a juvenile, it must provide him or her with somerealistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term. (Bentley;ACLU. 2017) One should think about thedevelopment of children while putting these laws in place.
By age 6, normalchildren are developing an internal conscience. A child has a pretty goodsense, inside themselves, of what they’re supposed to do; and if a child doessomething wrong, bells go off for them. By age nine or ten a child can graspthe idea that we have to have rules so people can get along, and we don’t havechaos.
Ages twelve and thirteen tend to be a transitional, awkward period;however, if they’re involved with a gang where they have to go through initiation,for example, they are often very independent and streetwise at an early age –eleven, or even younger. Cognitive function develops from “concrete” to”abstract” in the middle teen years, usually between twelve and fifteen. That’swhere a person becomes able to understand the consequences of their behavior oractions (Womack, 1994). The writer believes between twelve and fifteen would bean appropriate age to be able to charge a juvenile but at what age should thejuvenile be charged as an adult? Abuse, emotional deprivation, and exposure toviolence or drugs all retard development, meaning that not all children developa conscience along the same timetable. It is typical that children charged withcrimes are not functioning at their chronological ages.
What science tells us clearlyis that we must evaluate juvenile culpability on a case by case basis. (Womack,1994) The writer agrees with Womack. The writer also firmly agrees that theterm “juvenile tried as an adult” is an oxymoron. Remember what it was like to be a kid.
Now reconsider. It’s quitesimple. It is quite common to make mistakes whilst growing up and most all hateit when one is corrected or put in one’s place. Learning right from wrong andnot making the same mistake again is all part of growing up. One is not bornwith these skills and one has to make mistakes to realize wrong from right.
It’scalled being a kid. The laws that send juveniles to prison are immoral andunjust. The reason being is that it is not always the child’s fault for theirdecisions and actions. They are sometimes a victim of their environment ortheir parents.
Seeing violence between parents has a great effect on a child’sdeve