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The first juvenile court in the United States did not open until 1899. Prior to then, children over seven years old that broke the law were sent to adult prisons. There is a juvenile justice system now but there are still a lot of juveniles being tried as adults. Juvenile crime isn’t necessarily increasing but the crimes are getting worse. The crimes are becoming more violent and scary. The way that crimes are shown in the media makes the public angry and they want to see justice be done. That is where the ‘get tough’ plan comes into play. A lot of states have laws in place that lets them charge juveniles as adults. The number of juveniles in adult prisons doubled from 1985 to 1997, which shows our justice system is in fact getting tougher on juvenile criminals. However, getting tougher may not be helping much. Changing the laws makes it easier to send juveniles to adult prisons, it also makes juveniles recidivism rates rise. So the question of this essay is ‘should juveniles be tried as adults?’.
Many people think juveniles should be tried as adults and sent to adult prisons. They believe sending them to adult prisons is a form of justice for the victims and their loved ones. It also shows that the “get tough” plan is in effect and that if you do the crime you have to do the time. People also believe sending juveniles to adult prison will deter future crimes committed by other juveniles. When sent to adult prisons juveniles have a jury trial versus just a judge trial.
There doesn’t seem to be much good that comes out of juveniles going to adult prisons. When juveniles go to adult prisons, they are more likely to get out and commit more crimes and commit even worst crimes than what landed them inside of a prison to begin with. Being in prison with adult prisoners and interacting with them daily can give juveniles information on how to commit crimes. They could leave prison with this information and are likely to use the information and end up in more trouble.
Juveniles should not be tried as adults and sent to adult prisons. A child can’t be reformed by being punished and placed in the same cell as hardcore criminals, criminals that have made lifelong careers of committing crimes. There are things that happen in prisons that juveniles should not have to go through. Juveniles in adult prison have a higher chance of being sexually abused by staff and fellow prisoners. They also have a higher risk of enduring physical abuse from adult prisoners. Juveniles are more likely to commit suicide as well because they don’t have those special services for them in adult prisons. A solution some people have proposed is to put juveniles in solitary confinement to protect them. Solitary confinement may protect them, but it will keep them in a small cell for 23 hours a day. It will take away any of the little services they may have available to them. It will not be beneficial to them.
I think juveniles being sent to adult jail and prison is a way of saving money. According to Monsen, 2007, it is cheaper to just send children to jail or prison than it is to send them to a training or rehabilitation facility. The city or state may be saving money in sending them to adult jail or prison, but they are hurting them even more in the end. It’s harder for them to get jobs or go back to school with criminal records, when they are tried as a juvenile their records are sealed and they have a better chance at succeeding in life. Sending juveniles to prison could also send a message of lost hope. It could make them feel like they have no future other than being a criminal. This concept says throw them away give up and forget forgiveness.
Instead of being sent to the principals’ office for not following school rules children are being arrested. The schools have started a “Zero tolerance” policy and things they once would have handled on their own they are now getting the school resource officers to handle it. Juveniles being arrested in school for petty offences lead to them being thrown into the school to prison pipeline. According to Lehman 2017, the brain doesn’t fully develop until a person is in their mid-20’s, with rational decision making being the last thing to develop. Juveniles cannot quickly understand the consequences of their actions; they don’t think about the future. I think we should at least try to give children a chance at rehabilitation and if that doesn’t work then try something else.
Some people have tried to get rid of the juvenile justice system all together. In most cases criminal courts and juvenile courts have different staff with the same position; one to handle the juveniles, one to handle the adults. Getting rid of the juvenile system and merging it with the criminal system will save money. They will be able to cut employees in half. They would also save money by not having to pay for the resources and facilities the juvenile system use. It would save money, but it would hurt us in the long run.
What about a child who gets stopped by the police at 4:00am for running away from home? Or the child with some mental illnesses that have yet to be diagnosed? Do they just get thrown in prison? This is where those resources from the juvenile justice system come in to play and the child can talk to someone and get the help they need. “To merge the juvenile back into the criminal system is inevitably to abandon all or part of the notion of lessened responsibility of children for their conduct”. It would be like we’re forgetting the fact juveniles’ brains don’t fully develop until their mid-20’s.
People think juveniles belong in adult prisons, but some even believe they deserve the death penalty. In 2000, 23 states allowed execution of juveniles. 813 people were surveyed and asked whether they supported the death penalty or not and 53.5% either strongly or somewhat favored the death penalty of juvenile. This study shows the majority thinks the death penalty for juveniles is okay.
Officials must make the choice between which juveniles receive juvenile justice and which ones receive criminal justice. Their choice depends on whether the juvenile has committed a crime in the past and also depends on their skin color. Of course, Juveniles that have a criminal background have a higher risk of being sent to adult prisons. Juveniles that are at a higher risk of being sent to adult prisons instead of juveniles are minority juveniles.
Juveniles in adult prisons get in more trouble than juveniles in a juvenile justice center. According to Leigey and Hodge 2013, juveniles in adult prisons are more likely to act out when faced with the stress of prison life and confinement. Juveniles who go to adult prisons before their 18th birthday act different than juvenile offenders in juvenile facilities. They often commit serious personal crimes in adult prison and are less likely to follow rules when they get out of prison. So, this says that they will be back in prison in a matter of no time.
There are many different options to sending juveniles to adult prisons. There are juvenile facilities where juveniles can get the discipline as well and resources and services they need. There are community-based alternatives where juveniles do different types of community services. The community-based alternatives could be counseling, mentoring, drug tests, education program, job placement and much more. There are also supervised release programs like electronic monitoring where juveniles are monitored to make sure they are where they are supposed to be by or at a certain time.
I believe community-based alternatives may be the best option, but if incarceration is what must be done, they should be sent to juvenile facilities and not adult ones. Community based alternatives so that society cares. It puts more emphasis on the juvenile and less on the crime they committed. They try to figure out what they need to change or fix the behavior they are exhibiting.
Juvenile facilities have better programs and services to serve juveniles. Juvenile facilities are smaller and better staffed. Juvenile probation officers have small caseloads. Juveniles have a better chance of forming positive relationships with staff. They have a better chance to gain an education and psychological help.
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