Sentencing of Juveniles

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The Sentencing of Juveniles

Today, we live in a society faced with many problems, including crime and the fear that it creates. In the modern era, juveniles have become a part of society to be feared, not rehabilitated. The basis of the early juvenile justice system was to rehabilitate and create safe havens for wayward youth. This is not the current philosophy, although the U.S. is one of the few remaining countries to execute juveniles. Presently, our nation is under a presidential administration that strongly advocates the death penalty, including the execution of juveniles. The media and supporters of capital punishment warn of the "superpredator," the juvenile with no fear, remorse, or conscience. Opponents of this view encourage the idea that another death is only revenge, not deterrence. We will examine the rights allotted to juvenile offenders, and the punishments inflicted upon them for violations of the law. Juvenile Transfers and Waivers

For those juveniles deemed dangerous, or those that have committed a serious crime, a different process would follow their initial contact with the court. This involves the removal of the offender from the juvenile system, to be transferred to the adult criminal court. These offenders are adjudicated as an adult if certain factors are present. The waiver to the adult court is often a critical step in receiving a harsh sentence for juveniles. Two Supreme Court cases have addressed the issue of juvenile waivers and transfers, Kent v. United States and Breed v. Jones. The two cases resulted in specific requirements for transfer hearings, including a) a legitimate transfer hearing b) sufficient notice to family and defense attorney c) right to counsel d) a statement regarding reason for the transfer. However, the waiver of juveniles is often criticized by experts for various reasons. "Minors are likely to be looked upon as special persons by prosecutors, probation officers, and judges in the criminal courts. They are younger than the main population of defendants before the criminal courts…while a minor may be looked upon as a hardened criminal in the juvenile court, (s)he may be viewed as a mere innocent youngster in criminal court." (Abadinsky 72). Some research has shown that the transfer of juveniles is a waste of both time and money. Why? Because the offender often receives the same treatment or sentence as they would had they remained in the juvenile system. For example, New York's system has been criticized on the ground that seventy percent of juvenile offenders arraigned in adult court are waived to juvenile court. Of the remaining children who are tried in adult court, forty percent get probation; only three percent of juvenile offenders tried in adult court received longer sentences than they would have been given in juvenile court.(Allinson). There are options available when sentencing juveniles, before deciding on the ultimate sentence of death. Although, the alternatives discussed here are only applicable to less violent offenders. Traditionally, indeterminate sentencing is used in the juvenile system, which does not specify the length of the sentence, correctional officials will decide when the offender is to be released. However, due to the trend in harsh sentencing, some states have created determinate sentencing and the sentence must be served in its entirety. Some mandatory sentences exist for serious violent offenders. However, there will be offenders we cannot identify in time, those that commit acts that cannot be attributed to a "child." This group of offenders will face incredible amounts of prison time, or even pay with their life for the crime they committed. Juvenile Death Penalty

The U.S. is part of only a handful of countries that allow the execution of juvenile offenders. Currently, 38 states authorize the death penalty; 23 of these permit the execution of offenders who committed capital offenses prior to...
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