Should Juveniles be Treated as Adults Criminal Justice January 30, 2011 Should Juveniles be Treated as Adults Most young people in today’s world want to be considered as adults. But, they want the role and responsibilities of being adults to apply to certain situations when they want it to. Under the Georgia Legal Ages Law, 18 (§39-1-1) (2011), the age of adulthood begins at age eighteen. America has always described the children as being the future, our greatest resource, as well as the hope to make tomorrow better. But, for a lot of Americans, children represent fear and terror.

They are a symbol of violence, lacking self-control, without morals or ethics and a failure to most of the families who raised them. They have no respect for human life or each other (Brown,1998). Since they so desire to be adults, should they be treated like adults? This paper will discuss the reasons why juveniles should and should not be treated as adults. Most adults have a fear of the crime and violence that has been caused by juveniles and young Americans. This fear exists as one of America’s greatest concerns.

Fear of the capabilities that young people today has caused a lot of people to think twice about the lifestyle they are living. Some have decided to enroll in some kind of defense classes, install home and business security systems, and purchase guns for protection. Even within the justice system, preachers, and politicians alike are seeking for a justice system that will punish and prevent juveniles from continuing to commit the same crimes as previously committed. In the past punishing for juveniles has been minor, because a lot of people feel that to treat a juvenile as an adult is way out of line.

Treating juveniles as criminals just as adults are treated, sending them to criminal court, giving them a fee to pay, and labeling them as criminals are effective methods for society to use to show them that they cannot commit adult cries and get away with it. This method can allow society to show that they will not continue to put up with youths that do not want to be controlled and to show them that they are responsible for their actions by having to pay retribution. Some citizens, however, feel that juveniles should not be treated as adults because when they go to jail they become ictims of homosexual rape and other type violent acts by hardened adult criminals. The law presently allows for some juveniles to be locked up for their crimes, especially repeat offenders. Before the 17th century, juveniles were treated as adults but different only in size. They had to give in account for their behavior as adults. They were considered to be minor or miniature adults who were capable of serving the same punishment as adult offenders who committed the same act. Juveniles were considered to be children up until the age of five.

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After the 17t century church and community leaders felt that children were weak and innocent and needed to be guided, protected, and around adults. This led to an extension of the age for children making education a priority. During the 18th century children under the age of seven were considered not stable enough to commit crimes or even capable of having criminal intent. Children older than seven but under 14 were also considered incapable of committing crimes unless it could be proven that they were aware of the difference between right and wrong.

At that time, juveniles were considered to be adults at the age of 14 and were capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Therefore, they could be punished or sentence to jail or prison time with adults. As time passed, special correctional institutions or detention centers were being built for juveniles in the early 1800s because of the belief that they should be separate from adults. In 1899 the United States established the first juvenile court based on the idea that juveniles who committed crimes should be treated differently from adults who committed the same crime.

Juveniles were not allowed to enter a plea. The court would be allowed to make the decision as to whether the juvenile should be held or whether they needed some form of treatment. Instead of releasing juveniles to the care of their parents, the court would serve as the parent by seeking long term behavioral changes instead of They felt they could give the guidance that these juveniles failed to get from their parents and guardians. Time given by the court was based upon the needs of each juvenile. For some juveniles this program worked and for others it did not.

For some juveniles this “parens patriae doctrine” is still used to based their sentence upon. But, for juveniles who do not fit the qualifications they are sent to criminal court. Is this working today? Most young people today are more determined to commit violence than juveniles in the past. The national crime rate for acts committed by juveniles has increased almost 70% since 1986. Also, the crimes committed by juveniles are more heinous than ever before, increasing the fear in people toward juveniles. But, if they are old enough to kill, are they old enough to die?

Most states have taken a “get tough” approach to dealing with law violators throughout the criminal justice system. This approach is also being applied to juvenile defenders as well. A conservative approach to handling crimes committed by juveniles is nothing new, but it is different from how the United States has treated juveniles in the past. The request for waivers are more in demand than ever showing how people have changed toward juveniles and are seeking more criminal court practices for punishment.

The courts can issue waivers legalizing juveniles as legal adults and can be given prosecutorial discretion or statutory exclusion. With a judicial waiver the juvenile court can waive their jurisdiction over the case and send it to criminal court for prosecution. Juvenile court judges in every state with the exception of three can waive juveniles and send them to criminal court. Some prosecutors an also decide which court juveniles can be sent to and what charges can be filed against them. Ten states and the District of Columbia give prosecutors this authority (Stolba, 2001).

Beginning in 1950, people became critical about the slack treatment given to juveniles by the courts. People felt that they were too easy on punishment for crimes committed by juveniles and others complained that the courts failed to protect them and denied them their basic rights to due process of law. In 1968 Congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act giving juveniles who were arrest for nonviolent crimes the right for their case to be handled by other agencies other than the courts.

In 1970, the Department of Justice operated community-based programs, diversion centers, and deinstitutionalizations to deal with juvenile justice problems. These events were supposedly to bring about positive changes, but in the long run they did not. According to Hymowitz (2009) courts are more concerned with legalization than with rehabilitation juveniles. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a great increase in the number of murders committed by juveniles. Again, the need to treat juveniles as adults reappeared on the scene.

Some states changed their laws in order to try juveniles as adults. Some people today still feel that children are still children regardless to their age or the crimes they commit. Some feel that even juveniles who kill are really not aware of what they are doing and that what they are doing is a crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics data on juvenile offenders (2009) there are approximately 7,000 juveniles that are doing time in prison with adults, and most of them are serving time for committing violent crimes.

Of the 7,000, 76% of them are between the ages of seventeen and eighteen years old. Conclusion Feeling that a crime is still a crime, no matter who commits it, often leads to asking the question of whether the juvenile system is necessary to try juvenile separate or should it be combined with the regular court system and try children and adults under the same law, following the same rules. The juvenile law tells us that juvenile courts are needed for children because they should not be tried the same as adults.

Most people feel that juveniles should not be tried as adults because the majority of them committing crimes are young , some as young as 9 and 10 and at this age they do not have the same mental abilities as an adult. They cannot plan and carry out a crime in the same way and know what they are doing or understand the consequences. As adolescents they are trying to understand society and deal with it. Tobias and Martin (2001) feel that if parents would teach their children the difference between right and wrong there would be fewer crimes committed by juveniles.

What do you think? References Brown, M. (1998). Juvenile offenders: should they be tried in adult courts? USA Today. Society for the Advancement of Education. Gannett Co. Inc. Georgia Legal Age Laws (2011). Retrieved from, http://law. findlaw. com/state-laws/minors-and- the-law/Georgia Stolba, C. (2001). Old Enough to Kill: Should teen killers be tried as adults? Women’s Quarterly,8. Tobias, J. , ; Martin, M. (2001). Juvenile Justice. Georgia Public Broadcasting, January 30, 2001.


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