Juvenile Justice

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Juvenile Justice

To many Americans today, the country is a hostage-but not from oversea terrorism as one might expect to think. No today, we live in fear from our own children; and these are the same young people who we are entrusting the future of this great country with. According to the Department of Justice report released in November, thirty-eight percent of those arrested for weapons offenses in 1995 were under the age of eighteen (Curriden 66). In the same report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that in 1995 3 out of every 100 eighteen-year-olds was arrested for weapons offenses. A rate three times higher than for males twenty-five to twenty-nine and five times higher than for males thirty to thirty-four (66). Just weeks later the FBI released a report indicating that arrests for youths under eighteen increased by seven percent in 1996 (66). In light of these disturbing statistics, it may not be surprising that the general public is starting to believe its children are getting meaner and more violent. The media, politicians and the American public want something done, and they want it done now. Right now we are beginning to relize that if the situation looks bleak now, it could deteriorate even more in the future. The U.S. Census projects that the juvenile population, reported to be 27.1 million in 1994, will rise to 33.8 million by the year 2004 (67).

At the heart of this controversy: the juvenile justice system. For the past several years the system has been under attack by every one from state legislatures to parenteen groups. Our solution to the rising juvenile crime problem- to get tougher. According to a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 60 percent of Americans believe that a teenager convicted of murder should get the death penalty (ollson48). In response to this "get tough" mood, more and more states are passing legislation to try youths as adults for more types of crime at younger ages. Colorado for example has a brand new type of tough love for their juvenile threats to society, this new "love', so it is termed consists of lowering the age so that juveniles as young as fourteen can be sentenced as adults(Hetter 38). This recently instated law, I feel should be Federal law as opposed to state law. The kids these days have no direction, no ambition, and no feelings. As John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police says, "Police officers are encountering more kids with no hope, no fear, no rules, and no life expectancy; the only solution is imprisonment or death; it'll set an example to the rest"(Edmonds 11). Juveniles should receive capitol punishment, they should be imprisoned with adults so that maybe, just maybe we can get to the ones that still have a chance and make a difference for them as well as us.

1995, in San Antonio, Texas, Victoria Dalton a thirteen girl, is convicted of smothering two small children left in care. When interrogated and asked why and how could she do such a thing, her reply was, "they just wouldn't shut up!". Apparently Victoria suffers from migraine headaches, and the two children had pushed her pass her limit. Later during her arrangement, Victoria stated to the judge that she was only thirteen and wondered why she couldn't go home yet(11).

Fifteen hundred miles away, in Portland, Oregon. Brandon Roses, ten, is found guilty of murdering his five-year-old sister because he claimed that she was annoying him. Later investigators found out that Brandon's father had told him that killing his sister was "OK", because he was too young to be put in jail. Another investigation is currently under way(11).

In Austin, Texas, two young men Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal were both seventeen in June of 1993. As part of Villareal's gang initiation, the boys spent the evening in a open field drinking and fighting among themselves. However shortly before midnight two girls one sixteen and the other fourteen took a short cut through...
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