Violent crimes by juveniles have been a topic of debate for many decades. Crimes committed by youth increased during the mid-1980s, which lasted for over a decade (Jordan and McNeal 387). This situation triggered the ensuing panic of the general public. People started to become more concerned about juvenile violence; thus, state authorities established several policies to change the ongoing situation. Each state had developed individual plans for transferring some cases from the juvenile criminal justice system to the adult one. Thus, due to the spreading concern, most states administered new regulations to make it easier to influence the number of minors enrolling in the adult system.
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Juvenile court judges are the ones responsible for trying minors in court. They follow the procedures developed by the state juvenile laws, whereas the state criminal laws bound criminal court judges. However, not all youth offenders are prosecuted by juvenile judges, as there are ways for the subjects to be placed in a different system (Jordan and McNeal 388). The primary method is called a judicial waiver, where the juvenile court rules to move the case. The other transfer method is a prosecutorial waiver, also known as a direct file, where the prosecutor rules upon the decision of transfer. Lastly, the legislative waiver implies that tried juveniles are instantly placed in the adult system because of the seriousness of their crimes. Moreover, some states automatically treat sixteen or seventeen-year-old individuals as adults (Pettit). However, despite the current case-by-case system, it is not functioning appropriately. Thus, violent juvenile criminals should not be tried as adult offenders because the penalty is disproportionate; the system lacks long-term rehabilitation and is inefficient.
Arguments against Trying Juvenile Criminals as Adults
Disproportionality of Penalties
Although the justice system’s purpose is to stop crimes, it is proven to be disproportionally harsh to minor individuals. Studies suggest that juveniles tend to be sentenced to longer jail time than adult offenders (Jordan and McNeal 388). The research on the topic reveals that juvenile status influences judges while executing sentencing decisions in adult criminal court (Jordan and McNeal 397). Thus, the young offenders experience sentencing enhancement at a point of confinement length decisions. The juvenile status is not the only defining variable for such judgments, as it also includes the racial composition of the population of each community. Other variables such as gender and minority status are not indicated as factors for potential prejudice; therefore, the criminals’ age seems to be the defining factor for harsher decisions.
The system was initially designed to protect American citizens from the possible dangers of violent crimes committed by juveniles. However, the potential biases that currently influence judges’ decision-making processes within the adult criminal jurisdiction indicate the alarming disproportionality of punishment levels. While distinguishing between different criminal instances committed by the youth can potentially be beneficial to society, this idea’s current execution is questionable. Overall, the case-by-case system is currently executed does not adequately determine just sentences to juvenile criminals, as it is partial and one-sided. Thus, to avoid the biases mentioned above within the adult system, youth should only be tried within the juvenile criminal system.
Lack of Long-Term Rehabilitation
Furthermore, juvenile criminals attending the adult system have fewer opportunities to receive appropriate long-term rehabilitation. One of the significant issues with contemporary adult reformatory facilities is that they cannot provide long-term recovery programs for juvenile offenders (Pettit). Besides the public’s protection, the purpose of the justice system is to encourage positive change in convicted individuals. However, the adult criminal system cannot fully identify the potential for change in young offenders (“Children Tried as Adults”). The main goal of rehabilitation relates to actions meant to change offenders into law-abiding members of society. This process may include presenting educational programs in prisons, education connected to obtaining necessary job skills, and psychological counseling.
However, young offenders are often denied appropriate rehabilitation, particularly educational possibilities that can encourage these individuals to become active contributors to society once they complete serving their sentences. Pettit’s article focuses mostly on nonviolent, low-risk youth, yet violent offenders face similar treatment and equally deserve to have an opportunity to change. This is especially crucial given the young age of the individuals, as despite the length of the sentence, they have higher chances to return to society. Therefore, necessary assistance should be provided to youth criminals. Overall, trying young criminals within the juvenile jurisdiction facilitates the probability of them maturing to become functioning adults who fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and can function economically.
The Inefficiency of the System
Lastly, trying young individuals within the adult system is inefficient, as it does not prevent individuals from imposing dangers to society after release. Research shows that minors that were convicted within the adult criminal justice system have higher chances of committing crimes after release than individuals contained in the youth prisons (“Children Tried as Adults”). These policies were not efficient in making communities across the country safer; they only placed young individuals in dangerous and violent adult-prison environments. Research has determined that minors coming from this environment are “34 percent more likely to be arrested again than those convicted of similar offenses in juvenile court” (“Children Tried as Adults”). Moreover, they have higher tendencies to be suicidal than those in juvenile prisons (“Children Tried as Adults”). The statistics presented in the research show lack of efficiency of the adult system for juveniles, as it is rather harmful to their psychological and physical state.
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Overall, the system is not suitable for youth and leads them to commit more crimes. Moreover, young prisoners regularly observe brutal violence between adult prisoners and have a higher chance of being victims of sexual abuse (“Children Tried as Adults”). Many expert organizations, such as the American Jail Association, have questioned juveniles’ ongoing placement in the adult prisons because of the adverse effects they have on these individuals (“Children Tried as Adults”). The adult-prison system is not adequately suitable for youth criminals, which leads to further convictions due to the inefficiency.
To conclude, violent juvenile criminals have been imposing danger to society for many decades. The ongoing public debate questions whether it is acceptable to try youth offenders within the adult legal system. Thus, the United States implements a case-by-case strategy, where various factors influence whether a minor is going to be tried in juvenile or adult courts. Despite positive intentions, this solution is not sufficient, as it is not functioning correctly. Overall, violent young criminals should not be tried as adults because the punishments are disproportionate. The system lacks long-term rehabilitation programs, and it does not efficiently help individuals change their criminal behavior.
“Children Tried as Adults Face Danger, Less Chance for Rehabilitation.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, 2013, Web.
Jordan, Kareem, and McNeal, Brittani. “Juvenile Penalty or Leniency: Sentencing of Juveniles in the Criminal Justice System.” Law and Human Behavior, vol. 40, no. 4, 2016, pp. 387–400. APA PsycArticles.
Pettit, Emily. “Sentencing Juveniles as Adults is Not Always the Best Policy.” American Legislative Exchange Council, 2016, Web.