10 April 2012
Should juvenile offenders be tried and punished as adults?
In our modern day societies, people tend to have a very stern and close circuit view when it comes to the legal system and it’s offenders. People seek closure when they’re left with losses, and therefore seek justice and compensation from the legal system. Which is why most people do not seem to differentiate between “adult” criminals and “juvenile” criminals when severe crimes are committed and feel that punishment should fit the crime regardless of the age of a defendant. This being a very complicated and sensitive issue because many people do not see how admitting a juvenile into adult courts and prisons can severely and negatively impact and ruin their lives. With this being said, juvenile offenders should not be tried and punished as adults because unlike juvenile courts prisons do not provide rehabilitation resources that can in fact help young adults, admitting a juvenile into prisons can also become a self prophecy in which the mind of a young adult can be highly influenced by prison inmates and be “turned” into a criminal, and thirdly because juveniles and adolescents do not have the proper understanding of the criminal justice system.
To begin with, juvenile offenders should not be tried nor punished as adults because being incarcerated in prisons unlike being admitted into juvenile detention takes away the chance of any possible rehabilitation sources to adolescents that could have significantly helped improve their behavior. One of the best ways to help a juvenile is by providing resources that can help access the initial problems and causes that lead to their offending and committing crimes. By accessing and targeting these problems therapeutically, young offenders are decreasing their chances of re-offending and learning ways to deal with their behavior and ways of acting out. These being things that are not provided in adults courts, where they do not centralize around helping their offenders and pinpointing their reasons for offending. For example, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, has institutions and programs where they provide assistance to their young offenders, both cognitive and behavioral treatment interventions that teach them the skills needed to manage their behavior and meet their needs in ways that are not harmful to themselves or others. Another example developed by Henneggeler, Schoenwald, Borduin, Rowland & Cunnignham is the Multisystematic Therapy used in juvenile detention courts, which is the system in which a juvenile, his/her family, peers, school and even social networks all relate and are put together to help identify the problems of the juvenile and possible risk factors that are imposed and ways of helping the juvenile from deterring and re-offending. This program being very successful by providing the assistance of the young teenagers family in helping access the initial root behind the crimes they commit. These being just two of the many different therapeutic and rehabilitation services that are provided to young offenders in juvenile courts and detention. But if a young teenager was prosecuted and trialed in an adult court, they would be striped of these resources and not be helped at all. Adult prisons do not have the resources, money and time to help allocate and improve a young offenders behavior the way that it can be provided by juvenile court systems and detention centers.
Secondly, by prosecuting and punishing young offenders as adults, they run the risk of fulfilling a “self-prophecy” in which they did not at first see themselves as. This is called the labeling theory developed by Frank Tennenbaum, in which a person who is labeled deviant produces negative consequences to the individual. In return the individual starts to believe that they are in fact deviant and begin to act as such in accordance with what the public labels them as....
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