Prosecuting Juveniles As Adults In The Criminal Justice System

2668 words - 11 pages

The word most frequently used to describe the growth in the rate of violent crime among children 17 years old and younger is epidemic. The alarming rate at which children are committing crimes has increased the amount of questions on what should be done with these juveniles. The National Center for Juvenile Justice states how “Every state but Hawaii now allows juveniles to be tried as adults for certain crimes,” so why are people struggling with laws allowing young offenders to be tried as adults? (Juvenile Justice) They are children, and the lack of maturity and brain development can produce risky, impulsive behavior, and should be treated rather than persecuted and written off.
In the law, a juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states and on the federal level, this age threshold is set at 18 years. However, Wyoming considers juveniles as being under 19. In other states a juvenile is a person under the age of 17, and in Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, a juvenile is a person under the age of 16 (Allen). These ages are set in place by states to determine if a young adult, who has committed a crime, will either be tried in an adult court or a juvenile one. There are three categories juvenile courts rule on concerning children: ones accused of a crime, children neglected or abused by their parents, and children accused of a status offense. Offences such as truancy, running away from home, and the purchasing of alcohol, tobacco, and pornography are considered status offences because they only apply to a specific class, in this case being minors (Allen).
The goals of juvenile courts are much different from that of adult courts. Ordering punishment is not the primary goal of juvenile courts. Instead, they respond to juveniles by ordering rehabilitative measures or assistance from government agencies (Allen). The juvenile court’s responses to crimes are generally more lenient than the adult court response. Juvenile court proceedings are held in private, whereas adult court proceedings are public affairs. Also, the offense committed and the punishment is the focus of adult courts, whereas juvenile courts focus on the child, and helping them through rehabilitation, supervision, and treatment (Allen). Harry Allen describes in his book how, “Adult courts may deprive adults of their liberty only for the violation of criminal laws, and juvenile courts are empowered to control and confine juveniles based on a broad range of behavior and circumstances” (Allen).
One issue is determining whether children have the capacity to commit such gruesome crimes. How does a child even know how to murder someone, or rape a person? Many children show early signs of being capable of committing future violent crimes. However the American Psychology Association reports that “…the part of the brain that is responsible for good judgment and the control of impulses—the...

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