Juveniles Should Not Be Tried As Adults
‘Grown enough to commit a crime, adult enough to do time,” is a common phrase utilized by people, mainly when they simplify the issue of young criminals treated to the adult justice system. In the U. S, about two hundred and fifty thousand youths face prosecution yearly in the adult criminal system (Arya, 2012, pp. 1). The move arises due to the belief that the serious crimes they commit such as rape, kidnapping, robbery, murder, and drug crimes qualify their treatment as adults. Adolescence is a stage in the development of a human characterized by different changes among them the evolution of the character. These changes point to the fact that one’s behavior or actions do not dictate their future, they reflect the environment they grow up in, and their lack of maturity that in my opinion, shows they do not deserve similar treatment to adults. Therefore, juveniles should never be tried as adults due to various reasons.
Reasons why juveniles should never be tried as adults
First, trying juveniles as adults portrays a double standard. Fairness is a virtue that every human being seeks from others in a different situation, and one protected by the constitution. The United States law applies logic and consideration in developing regulations that guide minors. It argues that individuals under the age of eighteen years old are immature, irresponsible, highly susceptible to manipulation, and capable of change. Moreover, psychologists in agreement support the notion that a minor’s mental development is not at its peak hence, do not fully grasp right and wrong. In this regard, the government prohibits minors from adult responsibilities such as smoking, drinking, voting, and joining the military. Therefore, believing that they are not capable of the above activities and then holding them to the standards of adults is unfair and wrong, as it is clear that minors are not adults (McCrea, 2008, pp.3). Moreover, most of them commit criminal acts because of mischievousness as opposed to intent. Thus, it is prejudicial to subject a child’s whole life to a long life of condemnation and suffering for mistakes; they did in their prime years.
Second, sociological studies allude that an individual’s environment plays a vital role in shaping their mental, physical and physiological well-being. In particular, the kind of surroundings a child grows in determines their understanding of right from wrong and guides them in either deviating or engaging in moral or immoral actions. Statistics estimate that one-third of all violent criminal acts conducted by children are among children from underprivileged homes, struggling communities, and those that experience different types of abuse such as domestic violence and verbal abuse (Castro, Muhammad, & Arthur, 2012, pp. P3). Hence, these factors make minors vulnerable to criminal behavior. Accordingly, it is unjustifiable and erroneous to hold children to the same standards as an adult as they can are likely to be manipulated and tricked brought upon by environmental factors that define their nurture and which they have no control over.
Third, trying of minors using the adult justice system contravenes the Eighth Amendment of the U.S constitution. According to this Amendment, every individual is protected from excessive bail and fines and from receiving cruel and unusual punishment (Equal Justice Initiative, 2017). Various courts have made significant judgments and articulations that seek to protect minors. In the 2005 Supreme Court Judgment in Roper v. Simmons, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for juveniles to face execution. Further, in 2010, the court decided that juvenile offenders should not receive life-without-parole sentences if their crimes were not homicides. Moreover, in the 2012 Miller v. Alabama case, the Supreme Court pronounced the sentence of life-without-parole for children aged seventeen and below as unconstitutional (Equal Justice Initiative, 2017). Henceforth, since the Supreme Court is the highest court that interprets the law, trying minors as adults is disobedience to the Constitution, which is a criminal offense.
Fourth, trying minors as adults and subsequently imprisoning them in adult prisons results in destructive effects to young prisoners. Young prisoners are vulnerable to various vices in adult prisons. When these circumstances force them to face the reality of long sentences with minimal or no chances whatsoever to get out, they develop stress and depression that increase their likelihood of committing suicide (McCrea, 2008, pp.3). In adult penitentiaries, on projection, a minor is five times more likely to suffer sexual assault and rape than in juvenile holding. Criminologists attribute this to the fact that most juvenile arrestees fit the prison victim profile of rape, as they are young and in most instances helpless. Due to this, they are subject to numerous attacks. Moreover, there is an increasing trend of assaults by prison staff towards prisoners in prisons, and minors bear the blunt. Additionally, due to fear, they are less likely to report abuse cases. Thus, the cycle of violence continues. Hence, adult prisons pose serious risks and dangers to minors, actions that under the law shield them, and since they are illegal in the eyes of the law, it constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Fifth, studies agree that treating juvenile criminals to the adult justice system does not decrease recidivism; instead, it increases their criminal activities. The primary reason why most juveniles face the adult justice system is to inflict harsh punishments that deter them from future criminality. However, according to a research report by the School of law at the University of California, there is minimal, or no deterrence achieved through prosecution of minors as adults. According to the report, in fifteen states, eighty-two percent of juveniles released from prisons were re-arrested (Scialabba, 2016). Youths are irrational, immature, and continuously require parental figures to guide them and direct them positively towards changing their behavior. However, when incarcerated with adults, their guidance and protection are from criminals making them prone to negative influence. Thus, once in jail, the various negative experiences of assault, rape, and harassment push them to adopt similar behavior. In a bid to survive, they look for protection and in most instances end up joining gangs and utilizing weapons. Moreover, in adult prisons, children lack rehabilitative measures of counseling, education, and training (Castro, Muhammad, & Arthur, 2012, pp. P2). Thus, upon release, the experiences and deficiencies of the system make it difficult for them to fit in and experience a normal life. Hence, they revert to old behavior or worse that cost their freedom and eventually end up in prison again.
Prosecution of minors as adults represent a failure in today’s justice system. The system subjects the youngest and the least privileged members of society to a cycle of violence and harm without allowing for rehabilitation and forgiveness. The Juvenile justice system primarily works to reform and punish minor offenders while preparing them for the future. Nevertheless, since some of the criminalities committed are extreme, the system decides otherwise. Bumping juveniles to adult courts, however, is wrong as not only does it infringe on their constitutional rights, it subjects them to all manner of harm and abuse, fails to caution the society on the resulting human beings the process produces, and creates a more significant problem of recidivism. Hence, minors should never face the adult justice system.
- Arya, N. (2012). Key Facts: Youth in the justice system: youth crime. Campaign for Youth Justice, 1-2.
- Castro, E., Muhammad, D. and Arthur, P. (2012). Treat kids as kids: Why youth should be kept in the juvenile system. California Alliance, P2-P4. (Castro, Muhammad, & Arthur, 2012, pp. P2-P3.
- Equal Justice Initiative. (2017). Children in prisons: Deaths in prison. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from https://eji.org/children-prison/death-in-prison-sentences
- McCrea, H. (2008). Juveniles Should Not Be Tried in Adult Courts. Should Juveniles
- Be Tried as Adults? Gale Publishers, 2-4.
- Scialabba, N. (2016). Children’s Rights Litigation: Should juveniles be charged as adults in the criminal justice system? American Bar Association, 1. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/publications/litigation-committees/childrens- rights/articles/2016/should-juveniles-be-charged-as-adults.html