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Why Juveniles Should be Tried As Adults


Think tanks behind the juvenile justice systems intended to create rehabilitative mechanisms to reform juvenile offenders of minor crimes. However, it seems as if the youth perpetrate their crimes because they know that they do not stand punished by the juvenile justice system (Flesch 583). Suffice to say, the youths are protected by the outdated justice system that fails to nab the offenders and treat them like so. In order for a society to feel accommodated in the process of administration of justice and to deter more juveniles from perpetrating these serious crimes, criminals should be held accountable regardless of their age (Flesch 583; Pullmann 484).

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Thesis statement

To preempt similar crimes from occurring, juvenile offenders should be tried as adults if circumstances demand that they be tried under the criminal justice system.

Critical Analysis

The purpose of juvenile Justice System

Contrary to some views, a proposal to try the youth as adults should not be construed to mean waging war on juveniles. Instead, it is a war to end the immeasurable loss of life, damage to property and damage to the moral fabric of the society. Retaining juvenile justice system and applying it regardless of the kind of crimes meted against innocent citizens is a systematic failure on the part of the government to redress the worrying situation (Russel 380).

Opponents of this proposal to try juvenile offenders as adults have raised their concerns about the punitiveness and ignorance of the correctional and educational aspects around juvenile recidivism. They have argued that changes in the law to include punishment for juvenile offenders is a concerted effort by the rich white to disenfranchise the youth, the colored and the poor in the society (Pullmann 486).

To hold such a sensational view in the wake of heightened insecurity (that is presided over by the same youth) is to deliberately shut our ears and close our eyes to the realities on the ground. It is a clear determination to blind ourselves from listening to the cries of the victims of these crimes. It is the failure to put ourselves in the same situation of the parents whose sons and daughters are shot every day. The same thinking protects and validates 16- and 17-year-old boys who stabbed someone else’s parents in the head (Pullmann 488).

Many preventable criminal acts perpetrated by the youth have for many years plagued the American society, but little has been done to deliver justice to the victims because offenders have escaped punishment because of their age. Protected by a less effective, retrogressive and lenient juvenile justice system, violent juveniles have continued to take advantage of the treatment and have held the society at ransom.

High profile killings and slayings have been the order of the day, and often we see many people lose their valuable lives in the hands of youth offenders. Punishment has been found to deter people, including the young from exhibiting bad behavior. In learning theory, punishment can serve as a negative reinforcement to discourage bad behavior and reinforce positive behavior instead (Pullmann 484). Using this proven learning theory, it follows that subjecting juveniles to adult punishment will be the only viable way of stopping rampant crimes in the city streets.

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Reasons why adults should be tried under adult criminal justice systems

For many years, the debate on whether juveniles should be subject to the criminal justice system when they commit crimes has elicited different opposing reactions from people from the civil society, justice system and the parents. Under common law, a juvenile is any person under the age of seven years cannot be charged with criminal offenses, because they do not have the moral sense to differentiate between wrong and right (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 341).

The number of juvenile crimes has risen significantly, and evidence shows that the figure has tripled since the 1980s. The rising rate of crimes perpetrated by this group of people is worrying and legal experts suggest that the juvenile justice systems have failed to address this issue in their current form. The role of juvenile systems is to correct rather than to have juveniles punished. In the view of the fact that the juvenile justice system has been around for decades without successfully addressing the problem of increasing juvenile crimes, there is a need to shift the discussions and have juveniles tried in adult criminal justice systems (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 341).

While it is true that juveniles need to be reformed and turned into law-abiding citizens, there’s probably no reason to justify the continued call to uphold it amidst evidence of repeat offenses. There are circumstances that would justify a juvenile to be tried in the adult criminal justice system (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 341). In the case where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the juvenile committed heinous acts such as murder knowingly, the law should provide for such a child to be charged with crimes in the same way an adult would be charged, and if convicted, be jailed.

Circumstances when juveniles should be justified to be tried as adults

Since the establishment of the first juvenile court, the argument has been that juveniles should be transferred to adult courts if they cannot be rehabilitated in juvenile courts. The transfer of juvenile offenders from juvenile courts to adult courts, however, should be applied in limited situations. For the youth to retain their rights to rehabilitation, the judges presiding over juvenile courts must use their discretion sparingly during the hearings. This is because sending juveniles to adult courts is not, in most circumstances, the sole solution to juvenile crimes (Bergman, Paul, and Berman 35).

Studies have shown that juveniles who would have been rehabilitated but who end in adult jails end up as hardcore criminals upon release. Having said that, however, it is not agreeable that juveniles should strictly exempted from the adult criminal justice system. There should be a mechanism to allow upper courts to determine whether the juveniles who are convicted should be tried and prosecuted as adults.

When juveniles are tried as adults, the criminal justice system provides that they be subjected to the due process rather than obtain a blanket amnesty that borders on paternalistic treatment set aside for juvenile delinquency (Bergman, Paul, and Berman 135). The solution to juvenile crimes does not end with policies aimed at reforming the offenders. For many years, offenders have had to cause even more harm after serving their probation. Studies have also shown that juvenile repeat offenders are likely to commit serious crimes because of the leniency of the juvenile court system and paternalistic treatment of the crimes.

The restorative justice system goes further to involve the victims, the society and the offender in the search for justice. Unlike the juvenile system, which focuses on the offender, adult criminal justice system seeks to approach the issue from a holistic perspective (Bergman, Paul, and Berman 57). It proposes a strategy in which juvenile justice systems are supported while ensuring that the community gets involved in the process of healing the wounds of the victims (Russel 374). In addition, allowing juvenile offenders to be tried as adults means that the society appreciate the fact that victims of the crimes cannot be ignored even for a moment (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 356)

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According to the American Jail Association, juveniles who’ve been tried and convicted as adults should be housed separately from adult convicts unless it is proven that the detention facility has special facilities to house juveniles (Russel 436). A jail term may not be sufficient to help juvenile offenders. There is a need to develop a corresponding corrective program to help juvenile convicts. The purpose of the criminal and juvenile justice system is to integrate punishment and correctional services.

This means that while punishment is welcome, it should not be used to condemn the youth to rot in jail without providing them with a second moment in life. Any criminal justice should follow a win-win formula in which the state punishes while the offender gains from the correctional services while serving their term in jail. Where a juvenile offender is found to pose serious risk to the community, it is recommended that he or she is detained in a juvenile detention center equipped with correctional, educational, and support services (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 355).

To ensure that the youth are treated with utmost fairness and within the limits of the law, there should be a defined minimum age at which a juvenile should be waived. Experts in psychology are of the view that juveniles aged 15 years and below do not have the necessary mental competency to help them acknowledge the degree of their crimes and the magnitude of the consequences they are likely to face. For this reason, it is would not be reasonable to subject youth under the age of 15 years to adult criminal system. When deciding who should be waived under the adult criminal justice system, juvenile judges should assess all the facts before deciding whether the juvenile should be rehabilitated or jailed (Jung, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Meredith 356).

However, amenability or waiver should not ignore the severity of the offense, but should be considered against several other factors. Judges should be careful to evaluate the history of the youth within the context of the juvenile justice system. Juveniles who are considered repeat or chronic offender is the right candidate for a waiver. This can be determined by the frequency of arrests and the severity of the crimes. Juvenile judges should be empowered to evaluate the offender against all the factors established by the Kent Supreme Court. In an effort to allow juveniles enjoy their rights to due process, the justice system should allow juveniles offenders the right to appeal in circumstances where the judge waives.


There is a need to ensure not only a just society, but also instill the virtue of accountability for actions and omission by all citizens in the society. Restorative justice proposes a fair system that holds citizens to account. Accountability, however, does not stop with serving a probation period, visiting a counseling professional or reforming from drug abuse (Bergman, Paul, and Berman 126). Instead, it means letting the offender take responsibility for his or her actions while at the same time repairing the harm caused to the victim or the community.

Works Cited

Bergman, Paul, and Berman, Barrett. The Criminal Law Handbook : Know Your Rights, Survive the System (3rd ed). California : Nolo Press, 2000. Print.

Flesch, Lisa M. “Juvenile Crime and Why Waiver is Not the Answer.” Family Court Review 42 (2004): 583. Print.

Jung, Sandy, Ahn-Redding, Heather and Allison, Meredith. Crimes and Punishment: Understanding of the Criminal Code.” Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice 56.3 (2014): 341-366. Print.

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Pullmann, Michael D. “Predictors of Criminal Charges for Youth in Public Mental Health During the Transition to Adulthood.Journal of Child & Family Studies 19.4 (2010): 483-491. Print.

Russel, Sarah F. Review for Release: Juvenile Offenders, State Parole Practices, and the Eighth Amendment, Indiana Law Journal 89.1 (2014): 373-440. Print.

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