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Juvenile – Life is Precious

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    Life is precious and we live it only once, however, what we do with it is to our own discretion. It is a shame that many people at young ages decide to live a life of misdeeds and become what we call juvenile criminals, but, every action has a consequence and to deal with these unlawful adolescent we have the Juvenile Justice Department. The juvenile justice system is a network of agencies that deal with juveniles whose conduct has come in conflict with the law.

    These agencies include police, prosecutor, detention, court, probation, and the Department of Juvenile Corrections. However, when young offenders commit a series of crimes, constantly being in trouble with the law, they are waivered into Adult court where they will be subject to any punishment available. In some cases they are waivered into the adult system automatically such as in homicide cases. Being tried as adults exposes these juveniles to state penitentiaries and sentences up to life in prison without parole and even execution.

    But is this truly effective? Do these juveniles have the capacity to truly understand the crimes they are committing? Is there an age limit for introducing these juveniles into the adult justice system? Is there something or someone behind the acts of these young offenders? These questions leave us wondering if this notion really is effective or is there a better way of handling young criminals. We have seen today in society how crime rates have been sky rocketing and how statistics prove that the majority of the crimes are being done by minors.

    I believe that when you look into the background of these young delinquents most of them come disproportionately from impoverished single parents homes located in disinvested neighborhoods and have high rates of learning disabilities, mental health, and substance abuse problems and with help of the juvenile justice system they can make a huge turn into a successful transition in to adulthood. Their ages range from twenty and under, most are younger than fifteen years.

    In Ken Stier’s article, “Getting the Juvenile-Justice System to Grow Up”, in Time Magazine, he affirms the fact that every year, some 200,000 youths are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults. He also discusses how many advocates and academics argue that juveniles are not being given enough of a chance to turn their lives around after committing minor offenses. In agreement with Stier, I consider that juveniles have greater possibility than adults to make a change in their lives with the right help, counseling and rehabilitation.

    Stier also states; there is new brain research showing that the full development of the frontal lobe, where rational judgments are made, does not occur until the early to mid 20s. A deeper look into the psychological aspect of the difference between and adult criminal mind and a minor’s is established in Norman Poythress, Frances J. Lexcen, Thomas Grisso, and Laurence Steinberg article: “The Competence-Related Abilities of Adolescent Defendants in Criminal Court”.

    Poythress and his colleagues state; “Recognition of immaturity as a legitimate basis for adolescents’ impaired competence-related abilities is consistent with concerns expressed by developmental psychologists that some adolescents may have impaired functional capacities in a legal context due to immature judgment and decision making”. This being they are not fully mentally stable and developed in difference with adults who have full capacity and judgment to their actions this discarding criminal with mental incapacities.

    They also argue the fact that in most states they do not specifically analyze if a minor is competent to proceed in criminal court as a requirement for judicial waiver unless he or she presents a mental disorder. Not all courts simple waiver them into adult trials some due follow a criteria in order to transfer a juvenile into criminal court. They focus on youths’ danger to the community, inability to rehabilitate in the juvenile justice system, and degree of sophistication and maturity.

    Juvenile delinquents tried as adults have to assume the same consequences as any other criminal and are subjected to state penitentiaries with inmates much older and who have probably committed crimes far more devious then they could ever have. These minors range from the ages of nine to twenty depending on the crime committed or on how many times they are prosecuted and believe to be unchangeable. They are exposed to the harsh cruelty of penitentiary life where most are raped, beaten, and subjected to any abuse seen and known in these prisons no matter their age, mental and emotional state.

    Most say: “Well serves them right for doing wrong” or “They should have never done what they did”; but how do we really know the circumstances around their criminal acts. If scientists and psychologist who study the human brain and development determine they are not capable of full capacity and maturity and their brains are not fully developed as to rational judgment; what is causing them to do such horrendous crimes such as murder? I consider society plays an important role in a child’s development and the way they are raised.

    If someone is raised in a violent environment where they physically or visually experience cruelty, they are more likely to do the same. We have to realize that the people around us influence or actions and our change of character. If the government, schools and local churches where to unite and truly help society’s dysfunctional homes and troubled teens there is a major possibility that crime rates will decrease, prison would not over populate, and teens would probably stay out of trouble if motivated to do so.

    Most young criminals are also controlled by organizations run by unlawful adults who promise them a way out of poverty and misery when they truly are shortening their lives. The different situations are endless but I believe they should not be implemented into adult penitentiaries, especially those younger than eighteen. They should be placed with those their age group even though their sentencing can be that of an adult. However many disagree and they believe if these young offenders are capable of committing a crime like murder, no matter their maturity, they should be tried as adults.

    Tommy G Thompson in his article “Juvenile law needs to come in to ’90s” argues; “Children who rob and murder should be punished in accordance with the severity of their crimes, not the “tenderness” of their age. Youths who run with gangs, terrorizing their neighborhoods, are as frightening as adults; more so, in fact, because they are corrupted so early”. He also states; “gangs are able to use those youths to commit crimes, knowing the punishment won’t be as severe”.

    In agreement with Thompson, most juvenile delinquents are “run by” gang members and criminal master minds but instead of punishing these young people with adult prosecution and sentencing why don’t we capture the true perpetrators behind it all and clean up our streets from drug dealers and gang violence. We are not born devious and malicious; people are molded into who they become. It is common sense that humans adapts to their surroundings and are influenced by their upbringing that can determine who he or she may be in the future.

    However I am not stating that is an excuse to do the same wrong. There comes a time in our lives when we have to decide who we ought to be. Do we follow the malevolent ways of those who surround us? Or do we make a difference and shine in the mist of darkness? Annotated

    Fagan discusses why science and development matter in juvenile justice. Every day, judges and prosecutors make complex decisions about whether young offenders should be tried as juveniles or adults. Sometimes the choice is made in a retail process repeated daily in juvenile courts or prosecutors’ offices; at other times, the choice is made, wholesale, by legislative fiat in a process far removed from the juvenile courts. Poythress, Norman, et al. “The Competence-Related Abilities of Adolescent Defendants in Criminal Court.Increasing numbers of youths are being tried in criminal court because of statutory measures that have decreased the use of judicial review as the primary mechanism for transfer. The relative immaturity of adolescents suggests that transferred youths might have impaired competence-related abilities compared to adults.

    To test this hypothesis, we compared the competence-related abilities and developmental characteristics of a sample of direct-filed 16-17-year-olds charged in criminal court in the state of Florida (Direct File sample) to a sample of 18-24-year-old adults charged in criminal courts (Adult Offender sample) and to a separate sample of 16-17-year-olds charged in juvenile court (Juvenile Court sample). Results indicated that there were few differences between the Direct File youths and Adult Offenders.

    The differences that were observed suggested that the Direct Filed youths performed slightly better than the Adult Offender group and the Juvenile Court youths charged in juvenile court. These findings suggest that as a group, 16-17-year-old Direct File adolescents do not have significant deficits in competence-related abilities due to age or immaturity.

    This article states the darkest scandals in the juvenile justice system and the frauds and injustice being commited to young criminals and even innocent juveniles. Stier writes about the troubles being faced by the US juvenile justice department and their lack of organization and commitment to help troubled teens. He writes about how  for more than two senior county juvenile-court judges in northeastern Pennsylvania took kickbacks of $2. 6 million in exchange for packing thousands of kids off to privately owned detention centers who had committed minor offenses.

    Example: A 14-year-old from Wilkes-Barre, for instance, spent a year in a Glen Mills detention facility for the offense of stealing loose change from unlocked cars to buy a bag of chips; he was only set free after public-interest lawyers challenged the constitutionality of the punishment. Stier also defends strongly his belief that no young offender should be tried as adults. The reduced rate of housing benefit for under-25s should be raised to the same level as for older adults and government departments should co-operate to pilot a “one-stop shop” offering personal advisers to help young people navigate their way through the available services and avoid crime. Such approaches have been tried elsewhere in Europe, the inquiry said. It called for the youth and adult criminal justice systems to be merged into one, but with sentencing and provision based on maturity, not chronological age. The governor is asking that Juvenile Court judges be given authority to waive gang members 14 or older into adult court; that teens 14 and 15 be allowed to be tried as adults for several more crimes; that judges be given new authority to order parents to undergo counseling or other outpatient treatments for alcohol or drug abuse; and that police officers be allowed to take into custody any child absent from school without a valid excuse.


    1. Fagan, Jeffrey. “Adolescents, Maturity, and the Law. ” The American Prospect 2005: A5,A5-A7. ABI/INFORM Global. PROQUESTMS. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search. proquest. com/docview/201148870? accountid=28498>?
    2. Law and human behavior 30. 1 (2006): 75,75-92. ABI/INFORM Global. PROQUESTMS. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search. proquest. com/docview/204147307? accountid=28498>?
    3. Stier, Ken. “Times Magazine. ” Getting the Juvenile-Justice System to Grow Up. 24 mar 2009: n. page. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www. time. com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1887182,00. html>.
    4. Timmins, Nicholas. “Young Offenders ‘More Likely to Reoffend’ if Treated Like Adult Criminals. ” Financial Times Nov 16 2005: 6. ABI/INFORM Global. PROQUESTMS. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search. proquest. com/docview/249675803? ccountid=28498>?
    5. Thompson, Tommy G. . “Juvenile law needs to come in to ’90s. Milwaukee Sentinel. (1992): 8a. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://library. uprm. edu:2352/pqrl/docview/333316933/abstract/1335C911418478E11C2/1? accountid=28498>.

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