Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?


Historically, there has existed a separate justice system for handling cases involving minor offenders different from adults. State law governs Juvenile justice, and it applies to persons not old enough to be held responsible of criminal offenses. It aims at rehabilitating rather than punishing juvenile offenders. State statutes created juvenile systems to provide ways of protecting, caring and support of children guided by the principle of parens patrie. If a juvenile court relinquishes its jurisdiction, juveniles can be transferred and tried in adult courts. Historically under English common law, juvenile offenders faced similar treatment as adults. Lately, juvenile justice system has evolved to include stiffer penalties, sanctions and strict standards to ensure young offenders account for their misdeeds.

            Juvenile offenders have been enjoying different treatments from adults  as early as the nineteenth century. The state of Illinois established the first juvenile court in 1899 with a goal of protecting minor offenders and rehabilitating them to avoid future crimes through reformation. This court used the principle of parens patrie to provide care, custody and discipline of children. This system focused more on the child than on their offenses. Consideration of Children was different from adults and could not be entitled to the due process protections. Juvenile courts could not apply technical evidentiary rules as they hindered determination of essential facts needed to rehabilitate minors. This system of justice does not enjoy the due process of law as expressed in 1839 Pennsylvania case. More argument state that the goal of individualized treatment in juvenile courts lacks objective criteria and conflict justice. More criticism came up in the 1960s regarding the protection of individual rights. Since 1990s, most states have expanded their rules in ways diverging from parens patrie that make juvenile justice system look more like adult criminal system.

            Arguments for and against the abolishment of juvenile courts exist extensively over time. Some scholars argue for similar treatment of all offenders whereas some argue for juvenile justice systems. Some scholars argue that juveniles should not be tried in similar courts as adults as it is morally wrong. The United States constitution provides criminals a fair trial, but there is a need to consider situations where offenders are too young.  In some cases, offenders could be too young to realize the implication of their actions, and the jury should punish these offenses reasonably. In cases of   murder committed by juveniles, we cannot punish them by killing them as this is not just. It is also wrong to subject children below the legal age to adult standards of accountability. Trying children in adult courts does not make them adults as they cannot perform adult duties such as voting. At a young age, children are immature, irresponsible unpredictable and vulnerable to negative peer pressure so they should not be tried in adult courts.

            Arguably researchers have demonstrated that trying minors in adult courts do not lead to a reduction in recidivism but contrary to expectations crime increases. Young offenders tried in adult cases end up in an adult prison with adult cell mates. The argument that adult mentor children in to criminal ways so are most likely to re-offend upon release. Trying minors in adult courts thus fails to prevent them from committing a crime so they should be sent for rehabilitation. Transferring minors to adult courts increases the likelihood of suicides and the possibility of assault and sexual abuse.

            Children posses’ immaturity and irrationality compared with adults and subjecting them to stressful situations reduces their rational thinking. Changing the social environment of juveniles effectively reduces juvenile violence compared to punishments in adult courts. Rehabilitation provides a healthy environment to reflect on one’s actions while the adult prison environment is harsh. Children Rehabilitating juvenile offenders can turn them into positive contributors to the economy and children embrace learning more compared with adults.  Juveniles tried in adult courts face jail terms without parole, so they miss out on rehabilitation programs. The juvenile system aims at serving the interest of the children. Society has always separated a child from an adult and minors should not be treated in adult courts as this would eliminate the chances of treatment and rehabilitation.

            Sentencing juvenile offenders in jail has physical and emotional impact. Minors are vulnerable and have a high probability of experiencing severe unconstructive impact compared with an adult prisoner. Prison can corrode minors so they should not be imprisoned with adults. Risks of physical violence and sexual abuse exist in adult correctional facilities, so minors require facilities needed to get them back on track. Putting juveniles in an adult prisons expose them to mistreatment and takes away their creative years. This form of treatment affects their psychological calm and may affect their lives.

            Death penalty especially in juvenile offense is cruel and should be eradicated. Juveniles involved in serious cases of murder get transferred to adult courts and some face death sentences. The death penalty is a malicious form of punishment, and there are efforts to eliminate it. Death penalty may even lead to execution of children for crimes they did not commit. Killing children should not be advocated, and it does not act as a preventive measure. Juveniles who are in developmental stages of growth should not be compared to adults as they have not progressed in life and have not matured.

            Alternative arguments by scholars argue for similar treatment of minors and adults in courts of law. If courts charge minors similar with adults, they would posses’ fear of adult court prosecution, and this would reduce crimes. Many children commit crimes based on knowledge that they will not be penalized as adults. Juvenile system shields minors from the repercussions of their deeds increasing crime rates among youths. There is numerous concerns regarding increasing school shooting involving teenagers in most states. Youths have also turned into dangerous young offenders as a result of increased juvenile violence and youth gang related activities. Therefore, Adolescents should take responsibilities of their actions especially in critical offenses such as murder. Youths between the ages of 14 to 16 knows the difference between bad and good so should be held liable. Juveniles should be transferred to adult courts so as to punish their offenses. This prevents other generations from becoming predators

            Juvenile system also fails in eradicating juvenile violence so minor offenders should be tried in adult courts and appropriate punishments given. Adult courts will afford minors due process and their full constitutional rights. However in order to deal with juvenile crimes, parents should always counsel their children. Arguably, there is no convincing evidence that transferring minors to adult courts lead to the deterrence of crime. Empirical research shows an increase in juvenile arrests as a result of transfers to adult courts. Therefore, juvenile offenders should not be transferred into adult courts.

In conclusion, children should not be tried and offered punishment as adults as trying them in adult courts and punishing them in prisons create harsher conditions. Children should be given a fair trial under judges well knowledgeable in history and environment regarding children. However, juvenile courts should be tough in order to ensure juveniles do not take advantage of immunity from prosecution. Juveniles in rehabilitation should also be offered significant psychological help. Children represent the future of tomorrow so should be offered reasonable consideration.


One response to “Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?

  1. Pingback: Lost for Life – Resolution and Redemption | ChildreninPrison

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