Before getting into the debate at hand, we need to understand certain basic themes first. Juveniles are children who fall under the age of 18 (though in some states in the USA, this age is either set a little higher or a little lower) and have committed a crime.
Their young age acts as a deterrent for placing them in a trial that an adult would be placed under, and that's the reason why juvenile delinquency punishments are often less harsh than an adult's would have been had he/she committed the same crime.
Is that the right attitude to adopt or are we merely giving them a reason to commit more crimes because they have it easier? Will trying juveniles in the same way as adults turn out to be a better solution and act as a deterrent to stop crime? The following article will put forth certain arguments based on this issue, and the pros and cons of whether juveniles should be tried as adults or not.
Trying Juveniles as Adults: Cons
A crime is a crime. No matter who commits it. This is the exact attitude which leads to the question of whether the whole juvenile system should be discarded to include only the one judicial system of criminal courts, which tries both children and adults under the same law, with the same rules. This pointer overrides the present juvenile system law completely which states that juvenile courts are necessary because children cannot be tried in the same manner as adults are tried. Here are a few pointers that will help you understand why eradicating the juvenile system might be considered a negative factor.
On most occasions, you'll find that the kids who have committed a crime are very young -- as young as 9 and 10. It is an understood and proven fact that at an age like this, it is impossible for them to have the mental ability of a normal adult that is required to plan and execute a crime, and moreover to understand the consequences of it. So all in all, it is due to this 'yet to develop the thought processes of an adult' that demands us to treat them differently.
It is only after their adolescent years are over that children become mature and begin to understand important concepts like society and expectations (to name a few). During adolescence they are still trying to deal with society and their own inner battles of peer pressure, lack of direction, impulsiveness and the like.
At such a time, when they have no responsibilities, and mature or responsible behavior (like supporting a family) is not expected from them (because they lack that power to understand the consequences of their actions and delay their needs) it is considered unfair to treat them in the same manner as that of adults.
Psychologically speaking, it is said that there are no 'problem children', only 'problem parents'. Which means it is the duty of the parents to teach their kids values, morals and the like. Similarly, teaching kids about not handling something that is dangerous or getting them to understand the consequences of their actions (especially if parents have guns and revolvers in their houses) is the job of the parents. If they fail to do so, the children will not understand it. Simple.
It is also argued that since we take the age factor into consideration when it comes to important issues like marriage, social benefits, voting, and jobs, then why is it OK to execute harsh forms of punishments on them in the same way as that done for adults? Every parent knows that punishing a child of 15 and a child of 5 won't be carried out in the same manner. Their punishments will differ. A similar concept gets carried onto this issue as well.
It is believed that when children as young as 10-12 years of age commit a crime, they do not necessarily grow up to become criminals; yet when they are punished in the same manner as adults, the odds of this could somehow change. It has been observed that teens tried as adults tend to commit more crimes when released.
There are several reasons for why this happens. One, their educational and employment prospects become significantly worse, thus giving them incentive and opportunity to commit crimes, and two, the stigma that they face might lead to an inability to adjust in society and may cause for repeated criminal behavior.
Arguments also run through that when an adult commits a crime and is punished for the same, he or she will remember throughout the period of his/her sentence, the reason why he/she has been punished. He/she can thus feel remorse for his/her actions.
On the other hand, juvenile delinquents who commit a crime when they are very young, will most likely repress the memory of that crime, such that as the time of their sentence progresses, they will only have a vague recollection of the crime. And therefore, feeling remorse may not always be possible.
Take the case of Nathaniel Brazill who was sentenced to 28 + 7 years in 2000 after being charged with the 2nd degree murder of his teacher, Barry Grunow. He was treated as an adult when he was convicted. He was 14 when he committed the crime.
Psychologists say that as his age progresses, he will have very little recollection of the details of the crime that he committed and the remorse that he felt then. He will probably repress the memory as he ages. The question that remains to be answered then is -- does the sentence serve any actual purpose?
Trying Juveniles as Adults: Pros
The reason why this theory has come into the picture is that a crime is a crime, no matter at what age it is committed. Just because a child commits a crime does not mean that the crime is not committed, it does not mean that the victim didn't suffer. It does not mean that because it was a child who committed the crime, the family of the victim does not continue to suffer. The question 'Should juveniles be tried as adults for violent crimes' is garnering more and more arguments. Violent crimes receive the harshest punishments, and it is said that the same should carry forth and continue for children as well.
It is believed that the juvenile courts are established keeping age factor in mind rather than focusing on the crime factor. Many believe that this is the wrong approach to take up as it does not focus on the main factor at hand - the crime that has been committed. It is also argued that juvenile courts do not aim to punish, but are put in place to merely guide and treat. This, they say, does not serve any purpose, because this in no way guarantees that no crimes will be committed henceforth.
The reason some consider it OK for juveniles to be tried as adults is that it'll not only make them understand the consequences of their action, but also deter them from committing any further crimes, as they know they are not given any special consideration because of their age factor. It will thus hopefully lower the crime rate in society. When harsh punishments are meted out on children who commit crimes, others will learn from their mistakes and deter from doing anything drastic like such.
Many also believe that the age limit is quite high (18). At this age, a child is no longer a child and can be considered an adult. So the children who fall in the higher end of this range, should be punished in the same way as that of adults, it is argued. Though, most courts in the U.S.A. rule out the death penalty for children aged 16 and lower.
There are a lot of pros and cons that this issue holds, as is clearly seen in the points that have been put forth. Many of these points, we are aware, are in direct opposition of each other, and yet, each of these issues is worth considering and argued upon. Many states are now opting for a cut in the age at which a person is considered a juvenile and not an adult criminal. Maybe that seems to work? What do you have to say? Do you think juveniles should be tried as adults?