Trying Juveniles as Adults and Placing them into Adult Institutions
Juveniles being tried as adults, who is to blame? In today’s society it is not who or whom it is what. Juvenile offenders are now facing a double-edged sword. Not only can they be tried in a Juvenile court for a crime committed. They are now being charged as adults. Charging a juvenile as an adult has stirred up many different views. When should we say enough is enough? Violent crimes committed by juveniles have become a growing epidemic. The children of today are subjected to violence in popular songs, television shows, and even computer games. Parents having guns accessible to children and the society the child lives in all play a part in the destruction of our youth. Juvenile offenders are now facing tougher punishment for their actions.
Juvenile crime is stated as “an act committed by a minor that would be considered a crime committed by an adult, such as vandalism, burglary, assault, or murder” (Silverstein 11). Juveniles are committing these crimes against families, classmates, and strangers. In many states, a juvenile is any one under the age of eighteen. Young offenders commit these crimes because they feel neglected, that no one cares, and this is a way to get attention. However, professional’s say that juvenile offenders commit these crimes due to being abused or even ignored as a child (Valentine). Telling a parent to not ignore, punish, or leave your child home alone or your child could grow to become a criminal, seems severe. Why don’t we just tell them how to raise their children? We as a society can not place the blame on a parent the juveniles are the ones at fault.
Juvenile crime is dated as far back as the 1600’s. Where “in the Massachusetts colony, a teenager over sixteen years of age who had cursed at or hit his parents could receive the death penalty” (Landau
88). In this time-period, this seemed to be a severe punishment. However, surely it made teenagers think about their actions before acting on them. In the 1880’s, immigrants were the source of juvenile crime. Young immigrants were faced with many cultural differences that led them to crimes. Young Immigrant families were starving therefore stealing was their major crime (Landau 89). The juvenile justice system was condemned by society in the 1960’s (Landau 89). This would show the first signs of serious juvenile offenders receiving lesser sentences than juveniles who committed minor crimes would. “There is no national juvenile justice system in the United States” (Landau 90). Each states law on juvenile violence varies. Juvenile crime went on the rise in the 1980-1990’s. Murder has been the leading felony among juveniles. However, in 1994, 60% of juvenile offenders who committed murder were African American black men (Silverstein 12).
Our legal system has two different court systems. One, Juvenile court is where we hear a lot of our cases on custody battles, child support payments, and even misdemeanors committed by juveniles. Secondly, Adult courts other wise known as Criminal court. This is where adults find out their fate for a crime committed against another. Juvenile Offenders could be tried in both systems. In some cases the prosecutor can file them directly into criminal court. This process is called “concurrent jurisdiction”. States have another form called “statutory exclusion” meaning that if the crime committed is serious enough the juvenile will automatically is tried as an adult (Hunzeker).
The Juvenile system seemed to be the answer. However, it had flaws. Juvenile offenders are protected from society. The accused does not receive a criminal record for crimes committed. This results in a problem for judges and repeat offenders. If there is no record of their crimes, how will they do the time (Landau 90)? Small portions of cases do not even make it to court (Landau 90). Juvenile offenders are set free for crimes that adults get life in prison. If we set an example like that juvenile violence will continue to rise. Victims are the ones who are suffering. With the inconsistencies of the Juvenile system, a young offender could walk which would be more traumatic for the victim than the crime committed against them (Valentine). The juvenile system has failed in violent crimes committed by young people.
Transferring a juvenile into an adult court can be complicated. Attorneys and judges are faced with decisions of which court to try juvenile offenders in. Each state has its own age limit on who can be tried as adults. They range from thirteen to sixteen years of age. In a survey conducted 93% say that a 13 year-old should be charged as an adult for serious crimes. There are states though that go with the philosophy “if your old enough to do the crime, you’re old enough to do the time” (Hunzeker). However, Valentine states, how can we charge a juvenile as an adult when we establish an age limit for everything else such as voting, driving, buying cigarettes and alcohol, and seeing some movies (Valentine)? Why should juveniles be treated different from adults? In most instances the juvenile committing the horrifying crime has knowledge of his or hers actions. The United States Supreme Court set forward criteria for juvenile offenders to be tried as adults. When a juvenile commits murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson, sodomy, or aggravated assault, and the juvenile can not be rehabilitated with mental counseling, they can be tried as an adult (Silverstein 77).
Juveniles who are tried as adults are not getting the punishment they deserve. O’Leary states “the punishment of boot camp, life imprisonment or execution should fit the viciousness of the crime, not the age of the violent offender” (Garcetti 178). Cases have shown that juveniles are often getting a lower conviction rate in adult court rather than the juvenile system (Coalition of Juvenile Justice 180-186). The safety of these juveniles is in our hands. Transferring a juvenile into adult court can put the child at danger (Justice). Children should be placed into a separate facility from adults. With the overcrowding of our prisons, we are putting juvenile offenders in dangerous situations. “Research from the Children’s Defense fund suggests that juveniles in adult institutions are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than those confined in a juvenile facility” (Justice). Sources state that, adult facilities are a school for more crimes that a juvenile may learn while incarcerated (Landau 96). Placing our children in facilities in which they are being sexually abused, beaten or even killed is cruel punishment. Does the public know of these terrible things being done to these juveniles behind closed doors?
There are many solutions to reinsure the safety of our children. The public should demand the government to build juvenile facilities. Local study states that 87% of people surveyed agreed there should be a separate facility for serious juvenile offenders. Trying a juvenile as an adult is one thing but then we place them in danger. Building new juvenile facilities would not only help the overcrowding; it would keep the child safe. Having juveniles sentenced to this type of facility until the age of eighteen and then transferred to an adult institution may be a solution. The facility should hold the same discipline as an adult prison, but keeping the services provided to a minimum. We are trying to teach these criminals a lesson. Neither juvenile nor adult prison should be a pleasant place to live.
There have been many recent trends in Juvenile law enforcement from ranches, to boot camps even holding the parents responsible for the parents responsible for their children’s crime (Landau 97). It is stated that students should be taught at a young age in school that if “you do the crime you serve the time” it also states that a society won’t rest until we are crime free (Garcetti 179).
Additional problems with the system consist of the educating of society on youth offenders and it was designed for misdemeanors not felonies (Garcetti 176). The reformation of the juvenile system could reduce the number of juveniles being tried as adults. However, reforming the juvenile justice system consists of many things. In Minnesota, they have a system for juveniles where they receive two sentences “Probation and adult time in jail” for serious crimes. A violation of probation will land a child in jail (Valentine). Seventy-four percent surveyed agreed this form of punishment was fair and all 50 states should follow this program. Removing violent offenders from the system, limiting the confidentiality of juvenile offenders, and deliver real rehabilitation are all ways to help reform the system. Accountability can also help revise the system, make the parents and the child responsible (Garcetti 176). Blaming the parents for the actions of their children may help eliminate youthful crime. It is said that juveniles that live in low-income areas are more subjected to crime. Parents need to take better care of their children. By charging parents with the crime, that their child has committed the United States is sending a mixed signal to us. “The Supreme Court ruled that sixteen-year-olds convicted of murder may be treated as adults and sentenced to death. But if sixteen-year-olds are treated as adults in such instances, how can parents be held responsible for the behavior of children that age” (Landau 102). States need to take a closer look into the juvenile’s family lives. If there is a sign of neglect or abuse then the child should be removed from the home. In a survey I conducted, 23% stated that the parent should be held responsible for the actions of the offender. Charging the parents with crimes committed by a child can be a dangerous game of roulette.
One example is in the case of “Nathaniel Jamar Abraham.” Gloria Abraham Nathaniel’s mother asked repeated agencies for help with her son. Unfortunately, the help did not come in time. Nathaniel at the age of eleven stole a neighbors rifle and decided to go for target practice. After several days of hitting trees and buildings, Nathaniel decided upon himself for a larger target. An eighteen-year-old young man by the name of Greene was walking out of a local store when he was shot dead by Nathaniel. In this case, it fits all the speculations of why juveniles commit serious crimes. Ms. Abraham stated that “Nathaniel’s childhood hasn’t been ideal.” Coming from a large family and Gloria being a single mother the adjustment was difficult. Nathaniel was suspected for twenty-two different crimes throughout his neighborhood (Valentine). It was never the mother’s fault. How can we charge a mother for the crime her eleven-year-old son committed?
We need to get back to good old fashion, family values. Families need to take the time to sit down to dinner together and discuss what is happening in their lives. “Travis Savoy, a 14-year-old boy” was described by his parents as “average.” This young man robbed a pizza delivery person and shot him to death (Pitts). Travis had his parents fooled maybe taking the time with the child could have prevented this tragic act from happening. The type of child rearing of “do as I say not as I do” is a very bad excuse for raising a child. As evidence shows, a child learns from example, whether it is a good or bad example. Family values are extremely important in the raising of today’s children. Children should be taught that giving into pier pressure shows more weakness of will and spirit than leading the “crowd” and having the strength of character it takes to stand up to it.
Whether trying juveniles as adults or trying them as juveniles, we have not stopped these crimes from happening. Whether it is the reformation of the juvenile system or placing young offenders into the adult court and institutions, enough is enough. The children of today are our future. Fight to take the violence in today’s society out of the view of children. Watching the news, reading newspapers, and listening to the radio are affecting our children’s minds. Teaching our children right from wrong is a start to help prevent juvenile crime. Every parent needs to take part in the prevention of this serious dilemma. The children of today are growing up fast. However, placing our children into the adult system we are telling them that they are adults. We as a society need to petition our government to reform our juvenile system and build facilities that are for serious juvenile offenders.
Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Fewer Juveniles Should be Tried as
Adults. No Easy Answers: Juvenile Justice in a climate of fear, the tenth report to the President, Congress, and the Administration of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 1995. Rpt in Juvenile Crime Opposing ViewPoints. Bender and Leone, San Diego; Greenhaven Press Inc, 1997.
Garcetti, Gil, O’Leary, Bradley. More Juveniles Should Be Tried as
Adults. Rpt “Juvenile Crime Opposing View Points.” Bender and Leone, San Diego; Greenhaven Press Inc, 1997.
Hunzeker, Donna. “Juvenile Crime, Grown Up Time.” State
SIRS Researcher on the Web. 26, Jan. 1999
Justice, Law, And Society. One Jail Fits All, But Is That The
Solution? February 27,1999. http://www.wcl.american.edu/pub/JOURNALS/jurist/9.98/
Landau, Elaine. Teenage Violence. Englewood Cliffs: Simon S.
Pitts, Leonard. “Average Teens Don’t rob, Kill.” Dayton Daily News.
Silverstein, Herma. Kids who Kill. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First
Valentine, Victoria. “Youth Crime, Adult Time. America’s Juvenile
System isn’t What it Use to be.” Emerge Magazine October 1998: 48-53.
SIRS Researcher on the Web. 26, Jan. 1999
1. Do you feel that kids under the age of 18 should be placed in adult prisons for serious crimes such as murder and rape?
2. In your opinion, do you think that the government should build a facility for the juvenile delinquents?
3. Do you think when a kid as young as 13 commits a serious crime that he or she should be held responsible for their actions?
4. In today’s society, we are focusing on crime free streets. Do you think that charging everyone who commits a crime by the same statues would correct this problem?
5. In some states, they offer probation for serious juvenile offenders plus an adult sentence. If the Juvenile violates their probation, they are sent to jail. Do you think this is a fair form of punishment?
6. If your teenage child committed a serious crime, do you think that the court system should hold the child or you the parents responsible? Discuss
7. What are some ways you think will help us put a stop to Juvenile Violence in today’s society?