Child Criminals

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Child Criminals: what should we do now?

Madii
5.17.12

There has always been a controversy over how child criminals should be handled in court. People disagree on whether children should be tried as adults for their actions or if their age should be a great determinant of the outcome. Children are very complex. Their life history, home environment, influences, possible mental illnesses, and the simple mentality and moral level of children must be considered when they are being convicted of a crime. The U.S. is the only country in the world where children are sentenced to die in prison. Is it fair?

The main subject that is debated upon in this issue is the age of maturity. “Child crime is different from adult crime in that the offenders are, in most legal systems, not deemed to be fully conscious moral individuals” (Debatepedia). Although that is true, children should be moral enough to know that extreme crimes are not right. “Maybe that excuse will work for robbery and such. But when it comes to murder and sex crimes, they should not be able to get out of that. Those are two extreme things that everyone, no matter what age they are, should know are wrong” (Madii Sahli). “Every child should know the difference from right and wrong by the age of three or four, or at least have a sense as to what the difference is. The difference was instilled in our brains when we were two” (Courtney B.). A three or four year old may know right and wrong, but we cannot possibly expect them to understand the consequences of their actions. We cannot hold a four year old responsible for themselves. Children are very impressionable. The rights and wrongs that they learn from their environment may not be the same as the rights and wrongs of the law. But should normal children be impressionable enough to be convinced that murder is okay? If it is insisted that people know the difference from right and wrong at the age of three, then why is the age of adulthood so high? Instead of the age of 18 determining when one is an adult, the age should be brought down to sixteen. By the age of sixteen, everyone should know better. “I am only sixteen, and I know better not to commit any crimes. I am old enough to understand consequences for my actions, and every other sixteen year old should be mature enough to know as well.” (Madii Sahli). Compared to other countries, sixteen is still a higher age to be considered an adult. Many countries recognize the age of criminal responsibility to be much younger than eighteen. Below is a list of some other countries and their age of legality/adulthood.

COUNTRY:
AGE OF LEGALITY/ADULTHOOD:
England
10 years old for crimes.
13 years old for sex crimes.
Romania
12 years old.
Greece
12 years old.
Turkey
14 years old
Armenia
14 years old.
Spain
15 years old.
Scotland
16 years old.
Belgium
18 years old.
Luxembourg
18 years old.

On the other hand, United States law uses 18 for many things as well. People are not considered responsible enough to purchase tobacco products, live on your own, get a tattoo/certain piercings, choose to have sex with whomever you want, get married, own property, sue/get sued, or gamble until you are eighteen years old. You cannot even order crayons from a television commercial until you are 18! If you are not responsible enough to make your own choices, then how can you be considered an adult? “There needs to be some balance. The age of adulthood should completely be moved down to 16. At the age of sixteen, you should be able to get convicted of adult crimes, but you should also be able to smoke, etc. The only things that I think should stay at 18 is the age of being able to move out and live on your own or with a roommate, getting married, and gambling. That makes more sense to me” (Madii Sahli).

In 1998, 29% of high school boys in America owned guns. A survey was taken in Virginia in 1996, and reported that 41% of youth have been in a gang or associated...
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