Running head: Adults Sanctions for Juvenile Officers 1
Adults Sanctions for Juvenile Officers 2 Incarcerating youth with adult inmates results in tragedies. Youth who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to serve time in adult sanctions where they may be at risk. Research demonstrates that children in adult’s institutions are five times as likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon, and eight times as likely to commit suicide. Youth in adults sanctions will receive little to no rehabilitative treatment or educational services. Sending a teen to serve time in an adult facility tells the teen, his or her family, and the community that society has written this kid off. Before moving more juveniles to adult jurisdiction, the District should find out whether get-tough policies like juvenile transfers actually make our streets safer. Will young people released from adult jails behave better than teens detained in the juvenile justice system? Will all crimes committed by young people fall in number and seriousness? Does it save the city money to transfer more teens? Several studies suggest the answer to all these questions is no. A November 2007 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that teens sent to adult facilities commit more crimes on average than those sent to juvenile facilities. A study found that juveniles transferred to adult facilities are 39 percent more likely to be rearrested for a violent offense than are teens in juvenile detention. Youth housed in adult prisons for a violent offense had a 77 percent greater likelihood of being rearrested for a new violent offense than youth in juvenile detention. Since 1992, every state but Nebraska has made it easier to try juveniles as adults, and most states have legalized harsher sentences. Many states limit judges' discretion, sending all teens who commit serious offenses to adult courts, or allowing prosecutors to opt for adult prosecution. That sounds reasonable, but it can be unfair, says Kimberly O'Donnell, chief judge Adults Sanctions for Juvenile Officers 3 of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Richmond, Va. She points to 14-year-olds tried as adults for "assault by a mob" in effect, ganging up on and hurting a child at school. And once you're tried as an adult, you're always an adult, which can have awful consequences. For example, if these teens are arrested again, prosecutors can use the threat of lengthy prison sentences as leverage to gain a plea bargain agreement that might not be in a child's interest, O'Donnell says. There's firm evidence that teens prosecuted as adults are much more likely to commit crimes when they get out than comparable young people tried as juveniles, says Shay Bilchik, president and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America. Juvenile facilities tend to offer better education, job training, and drug abuse and mental health treatment, Steinberg says. Plus, teens aren't learning from adults how to be career criminals, he adds. Many younger children aren't even competent to stand trial because they don't understand the trial process or can't make decisions about pleas, says Thomas Grisso, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. He has developed guidelines to determine juvenile competence and is training U.S. juvenile court workers in using them. New findings challenge common assumptions about teenage criminals. For example, a study that has tracked 1,355 serious offenders for three years finds that less than 10% of those involved in a lot of criminal activities at the outset continued to be heavily involved over the years. "A lot...
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