Monday, April 11, 2011

Juvenile Crime

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The word “juvenile” in the term juvenile crime stands alone as a reason that children should not be tried as adults in criminal proceedings. Juvenile, by definition means young or youthful, immature or underdeveloped. As an underdeveloped or immature person, how can youths be treated as adults who have encountered many more experiences throughout their lives? The answer to this simple question is, they cannot. “Research indicates that young people tried as adults and incarcerated in adult courts are more likely to recidivate than young people kept in the juvenile system” (Miliken, Kofler). Exposing children to the adult penal system greatly reduces their youthful outlook on life.

Forcing children into adulthood by sending them through adult systems is ultimately a disadvantage to the entire country. “Throwing them in jail for years, they argue, only improves the odds they will come out hardened criminals” (Sanchez, Booth ). Exposing children to adult facilities shows them how unforgiving the world is, thus improving chances that they will resort to crime as means of survival. In Chicago, the year 18 was when the first juvenile court was established. The basis of a juvenile court was that even violent children could be rehabilitated. Another point, was “that harsh punishment should be a last resort, that children should never be housed in adult prisons, and that children’s criminal records shouldn’t be made public” (Baye). The juvenile court was established for the very important reason of handling youth crime with special care, in hopes that they may turn their troubled lives around.

America needs to resort to older methods of punishment and start recognizing these offenders for what they are, children. “Those who say tougher penalties for youthful offenders are necessary call the old rules of juvenile justice antiquated, created in a bygone era when crimes such as truancy and theft not firing semiautomatic weapons at classmates�were leading worries” (Sanchez, Booth). Although the severity of youth crime has increased, rehabilitation cannot be lost in the shuffle to correct this nationwide problem. In 18, almost half of those sentenced to death in Alabama were 1 years old or younger. Also, it is common for 14 and 15 year olds to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. What is more, mental illness, lifelong physical or sexual abuse may not be used as barriers to these extreme sentences (Baye). Killing juvenile offenders, and locking them up for life is not the correct way to handle youth crime in this country. America is trying to protect society from killers, yet has become one of them.

Keeping youthful offenders in the adult system only ensures that a bright future is doubtful. A new bill in California not only toughens penalties for crime, but also hands over the authority from the courts to the prosecutors. On Proposition 1, which gives prosecutors more power in deciding to bring a juvenile to adult court, some say that prosecutors might abuse this privilege. It suggests that they might want to appear as if they are tough on crime, and also “could disproportionately affect poor minority youths most in need of educational programs” (Sanchez, Booth ). Others believe that this Proposition could discourage juveniles that might benefit from counseling and probation by cooping them up in jail as they await trial in adult court (Sanchez, Booth ). America is moving in the wrong direction in its plan to curb juvenile crime. Several probation officers opposed Proposition 1, mostly because of its costs and the shift in priorities. The priority has moved from trying to rehabilitate youths, to punishing them more strongly (Moran ).

Rehabilitation for young offenders is crucial, and has suddenly been put on a back burner. “ The consequences of Proposition 1 could be profound. State government analysts say that it is more likely to put new burdens on the court system and divert thousands of youthful offenders away form probation programs and into prison, with a price tag of up to several hundred million dollars a year” (Sanchez, Booth). This Proposition has put a dead weight on the progress of America’s rehabilitative efforts. With the proposal of Proposition 1, funds could be diverted from local programs, with rehabilitative intentions, to sending juveniles to prison, where juveniles are forced to join violent prison gangs. This defeats the purpose of the proposition’s anti-gang objectives. “The desire to reduce crime among young people is noble. Unfortunately, Proposition 1 is not the way to accomplish this objective” (Miliken, Kofler).

We, as a society, need to recognize that these are children, and they need to be handled with special care. “We expose children at a much earlier age to adult habits and pleasures, and shake our heads in amazement when they perpetrate adult crimes”(Labadie). Before children can be tried and treated as adults, they must properly come of age. According to one expert, a 6-year old is capable of distinguishing between what is right and wrong and their consequences. Another expert opposes that it is not a matter of knowing right from wrong, but whether the child has “the cognitive and emotional capabilities to stop himself from doing something even if he knew it was wrong” (Baye). Minds that are not fully developed should not be exposed to judicial systems that are. “Before, the system was based on treatment and rehabilitation,” Mr. Addison said (a public defender at the Baltimore courthouse). In the last five to ten years, there has been a big rush towards, “let’s provide punishment and let’s protect society” (Borger). America owes its youth good rehabilitation programs so that they may become productive adults in society. “If they aren’t antisocial when they go into prison, that’s what they are going to be when they come out. And they will come out of prison, and the problems are just increased” (Sanchez, Booth). If the problems are increased, the problem is not solved, and America is back to square one.


Bibliography

Baye, Betty Winston. “Juvenile justice needs special care.” Courier Journal Mar 2000

Borger, Julian. “US throws ‘predator’ kids to the wolves.” The Guardian Mar 2000

Miliken, James R., Edwin Kofler. “A better way to combat juvenile crime.” The San

Diego Union Feb 000 1-. Online. ProQuest. 4 Apr 2000.

Sanchez, Rene, William Booth. “California toughens juvenile crime laws.” The

Washington Post Mar 2000 1-4. Online. ProQuest. Apr 2000.

United States. Dept. of Justice. Bureau of Statistics. Washington.

http//www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/pspal187.htm, 2000.


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