Today’s world has people who seem to have fixed ideas about current events that happen around them. For instance, many people in the society today have their own thoughts and opinions regarding whether juvenile offenders should go through the same trial and punishment as adult offenders. There those who argue that if an individual is old enough to commit a crime, then, he or she is also be old enough to serve some time in jail. As much as there are many proponents of this argument, it is important for these people to realize that juveniles are not adults, neither will be trying them and punishing them as adults make them adults.
While we all agree that young offenders should carry the cross of their actions, we should also appreciate that there is a system in place that is specifically designed to ascertain the extent of the consequences that arise from such actions. It is will be ironical for us to treat juveniles as adults when dealing with matters of crime and see them as minors when it comes to voting, marrying, drinking and many other acts that minors are prohibited to do. This is why it will be wrong to try and punish juveniles in the same courts as adults.
Many juveniles today are transferred from the juvenile justice system to adult courts. This is done when the courts know clearly that many of the offenders are usually too young to even understand the consequences of their actions. There are many cases in which young kids have been tried as adults in the US. Trying young offenders in adult courts means that they will serve their sentences in adult prisons or jails if found guilty.
The justice system fails to realize that many kids who are sent to adult prisons take their cell mates as their role models. This means that they will learn other bad habits from their prison friends. This is contrary to when the same kid had been taken to a rehabilitation institution for example; he will be in the company of fellow kids who are under the guidance of reliable counselors and educators. This enables the kid to learn good virtues that he can apply in his life when he is eventually released back into the society (McCormick 1).
Juveniles are not mature enough
The juvenile justice system was formed on the premise that children do not have maturity levels as adults and therefore, should not be handled on the accountability level as adults. This has however, not reduced in any way the number of juveniles who are transferred to the adult’s courts each year. This has more to do with the changes that have been made in the US laws. A 1998 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that more than 7,000 juvenile underwent trial for felonies in adult criminal courts. The report also indicated that juveniles judged in the adult courts stood a high chance of being charged for violence than adults. Additionally, studies show that juvenile transfers to adult courts do not effectively deter juveniles from future crimes. These statistics support further the argument that juveniles should be tried in a juvenile system (Bureau of Justice Statistics 1).
Adult prisons and jails are structurally designed for adults. Therefore, subjecting juveniles in these structures has many potential consequences. Besides, the society today has developed the perception that subjecting juveniles to the same justice system with adults does not deter them from more crimes. There are instances where mentally disadvantaged adults have been ruled incapable of standing trial. How fair then is a court trial if it tries a juvenile, who, as it is widely known, not mentally mature? The juvenile system goes through legally recognized procedures when handling juvenile offenders.
These procedures are greatly altered when a juvenile is moved to an adult court because it is not easy to precisely distinguish the age at which one understands the court proceedings. Juveniles may be aware of what is wrong and right, but their immaturity exempts them from being perceived as adults. This put rehabilitation as the only best option that can address their delinquent behavior (Just Kids 11).
Young people are usually in a process of development. They should therefore, be given ample time to adapt and taking in all that happens around them. It should be understood that in any learning process, mistakes are bound to happen. Kids are learning to live in this world, when they make mistakes they should be corrected appropriately, not severe punishment. Besides, juveniles are forced to be tried as adults under the laws that they are not even allowed to vote on. Kids need to be guided in their growth; it is therefore illogical to send kids to prisons full of worse criminals than the kids themselves.
This will only act as the training ground for worse crimes when the kids get out. Rehabilitation works on the premise that changing a kid’s social environment is a better way of mitigating juvenile violence. This premise does not in any way say that punishment is the best solution. The juvenile system gives a juvenile offender an opportunity to reflect on his or her actions in an environment that is healthy. Prisons on the other hand are too oppressive and therefore, not healthy environments for proper growth of juveniles. Prisons increase the tendency of juvenile to repeat crimes when released (Just Kids 13).
Rehabilitation is the best option for juveniles
The other issue is that because juveniles are still developing, they are easier to rehabilitate than adults. There are many laws that have been enacted in the US today that promote disciplinary measures against juvenile offenses. These have seen many young people end up in criminal courts where the probability of getting sentences and ending up in adult prisons is high. As we have already seen, the best solution is rehabilitation. Through rehabilitation, the juvenile is given a chance to grow into a responsible person in the society. Kids in juvenile centers get constructive experiences which they later integrate in their adult life.
Despite these attributes, there are those who strongly feel that juvenile offenders are not effectively punished for serious crimes in the juvenile system. They advocate for the abolishment of the juvenile courts because according to them, these courts only protect youthful criminals. These people forget that such an abolishment will only worsen the situation. We have just seen that juveniles are people who are undergoing development. They therefore, need many things in their lives such as education. It is only the juvenile system that can best address this interest. Juvenile courts are therefore, the only place that can best serve the interests of young people (Debate 1).
Safety and protection are rights that everyone should be given. People always strive to protect themselves from aggressive criminals regardless of their age. This is actually what any justice system should do. This has however, raised many concerns in the society. Juveniles have been tried and sentenced as adults ending up in adult jails. We can not just base arguments on the attitudes that the society has on juvenile offenders and subject them to equal treatment with adults. We should not deny juveniles the opportunity to reform by placing them in adult institutions. There are those who do not agree with this argument.
They claim that subjecting minors to the same disciplinary measures as adults will minimize the number of minors participating in criminal activities. They argue that many children nowadays grow up knowing that they can not be tried for crimes in adult courts until they are adults. This leads them into committing crimes with the knowledge that the justice system will be lenient on them. They therefore, say that a certain amount of fear should be instilled in these juveniles by taking them in adult courts so that they can avoid repeating crimes (Scot & Steinberg 1).
All offenders are humans and should therefore, be given all the privileges that accompany human dignity. Juveniles are however, compromised because they are a vulnerable group that is just in their developmental stages. Prison life can cause psychological and even physical harm to a juvenile than an adult. Juveniles should therefore, not be left into the hands of hardened prisoners who may teach them bad habits. There have been cases where juveniles have reported of being physically or sexually abused while in adult prisons. These are not the best facilities for juveniles, they need rehabilitative facilitates that will enable them fit back into their communities.
There is also the issue of the death penalty that is issued in adult courts. This has been a contentious issue that has seen many people around the world fight for its abolishment. It becomes even worse if it is a juvenile’s life that is being terminated. It does not make it right to kill a child for a crime he may have committed unknowingly. Juvenile should not be compared to adults who have fully developed into responsible persons (McCormick 1).
Many of the crimes that juveniles commit are usually foolish and childish acts that are done out of curiosity. The judicial system should therefore; use better ways that will ensure that the kids realize that their childish acts are harmful to others so that they can avoid them through appropriate rehabilitative measures. Of course this should not be entirely left in the hands of the juveniles. Parents should also play a participatory role in shaping the behaviors of their kids. They should use appropriate corrective measures apart from severe punishments to mould juveniles into responsible and respectful kids.
There are those who support trying juveniles in adult courts on the basis that this will serve the interests of the victims. However, research has shown that many victims usually want offenders to be stopped from harming other people. They also don’t believe that subjecting kids to prison conditions does not in any way making them law abiding. The victims don’t want vengeance, but rather a mechanism that will ensure that the next victim is protected. After all, it is not the ordinary citizens who should dictate how justice is meted out, it should be left to the judges to do their work according to the set laws (Debate 1).
Those who support the argument that juveniles should be tried and punished in the same courts as adults base their arguments on the assumptions. For instance, they assume that when a juvenile is found guilt, then it means that he or she is totally responsible for the crimes and should therefore, pay for them. We have just seen that the law allows those found guilty, but are not entirely accountable for the crimes to be given a lesser punishment. Because minors are still growing, they are not competent or responsible enough and therefore, should not be held accountable for the committed crimes.
They should not be subjected to similar judicial procedures as adults. Treating minors who have committed crimes in adult courts as adults is very unfair and should not be encouraged. Developmental theories have shown that kids naturally will emulate adult behaviors which they will later reproduce in the quest to satisfy their curiosity. This therefore, means that putting juveniles in prison full of hardened criminals will only lead them into copying unwanted behavior that will make them better criminals in future.
It is also morally wrong to kill a child, subjecting juveniles to capital punishment goes against this moral requirements. Juveniles should instead be allowed a fair trial in conducive environments that will not be intimidating to their judgments. Children carry the world’s future and if we want to protect the future, then we should put the welfare of these children as a priority in whatever we do. We should not subject them to harsh and detrimental trials and punishments that are given to adults.
Debate. Debate: In some cases juveniles should be tried as adults. Debatepedia, 2011. Web.
Just Kids. Just Kids: Baltimore’s Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System. Just Kids Organization, 2011. Web.
McCormick, Patrick. Fit to be tried? American Magazine, 2002. Web.
Scot, Elizabeth and Steinberg, Laurence. Social Welfare and the Regulation of Youth Crime. The Future of Children, 2008. Web.