Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?

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Much controversy exists on the question of whether a juvenile criminal should be punished to the same extent as an adult. Those who commit capitol crimes, including adolescents, should be penalized according to the law. Age should not be a factor in the case of serious crimes. Many people claim that the child did not know any better, or that he was brought up with the conception that this behavior is acceptable. Although there is some truth to these allegations, the reality of this social issue is far more complex. Therefore we ask the question, Should childhood offenders of capitols crimes be treated as adults?

To begin with, numerous reasons for why a child acts in the manner he exhibits and why he continues to exert such dangerous and even fatal schemes. Recent research shows that factors ranging from inherited personality traits to chemical imbalances and damages suffered in the womb can increase the odds that a child will become violent (Johnson 234). Experts argue that no one is predestined to a life of crime. They believe that influences such as repeated abuse, extreme neglect, poverty, media violence, and easy access to guns play the major role in molding children into criminals. The father of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer wonders, "If potential for evil is in the blood that some of us pass on to our children" (Wartik 23).

In the quiet New York town of Savona, Eric Smith, age thirteen, intercepted four year old Derrick Robie on his way to a park recreation program and offered to show him a shortcut. Hesitatingly, Derrick set off with Eric. He never made it to the park. That same day the little boy's savagely beaten body was discovered outside the park area (Wartik 98). Jon Venables and Robert Thompson of Liverpool, England, made international headlines in November of 1994, when they were convicted of murdering James Bulger, age two. The two boys, both ten at the time of the slaying, lured James away from his mother in a shopping mall, took him to a nearby railroad track, beat him brutally and left him to be cut in half by a train (Wartik 56).

Many experts do not accept that biology alone creates children who kill. They believe that violence is a learned behavior. Being abused or witnessing domestic violence is an environmental factor in juvenile violence. Being maltreated or neglected is another factor. A large percent of murderers come from rough childhood's. Birth complications raised the likelihood that a child would have a criminal record by the time he was eighteen. Upbringing is also a key in molding young children (Wartik 45).

In a 1988 study of serial killers, it was discovered that more than a third exhibited such destructive behavior as fire setting, cruelty to animals, and property destruction among youngsters. This same year, in a study of thirteen Murderers, ages thirteen to seventeen, it was found that more than half of these juveniles had signs of major brain dysfunction, resulting from falls, accidents,or other traumas (Wartik 34).

Furthermore A mother's use of recreational drugs, alcohol, or tobacco during pregnancy has also been linked to her child's risk of future criminality. Antisocial children seem to have slower brain-wave activity and lower heart rates than their well-behaved peers (Wartik 67).

Media violence is another factor in fostering aggression. That is, the violence that children are surrounded by everyday, including television violence, and witnessing abuse in the home and on the streets affects the child (Wartik 78). A fifteen year old boy from Savona shot his brother dead in a quarrel over a bottle of cold medicine (Wartik 104).

Deanna Cremin of Somerville, MA was found dead behind an elderly housing complex. Her body was found half naked and strangled. She was a seventeen year old high school junior. It is believed that she knew her killer (Johnson 59A). However, the truth behind the question of Biology or upbringing lies somewhere in between. Biology and the...
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