Juvenile Justice: Should Minors be charged as Adults?
A movement has taken hold of our nation to change the juvenile justice system, and erase any distinction between young offenders and adult criminals. Almost all fifty states have changed their juvenile justice laws, allowing more youths to be tried as adults and scrapping long-time efforts to help rehabilitate delinquent kids and prevent future crimes. It seems to be plain and simple, a minor in this country is defined as a person under the age of eighteen. How then can we single out certain minors and call them adults? Were they considered adults before they carried out an act of violence? No. How then, did a violent act cause them to cross over a line that is defined by age? The current debate over juvenile crime is being dominated by two voices: elected officials proposing quick-fix solutions, and a media more intent on reporting violent crimes than successful prevention efforts. Minors should not be tried as adults in our society today. This is obvious through looking at propositions by our government such as Proposition 21, statistics on juvenile crime and also from specific cases where minors where sentenced in adult courts.
Politicians feel that best and easiest solution is to simply lock up youth offenders for long periods of time, and ignore rehabilitation. Most studies demonstrate that putting young offenders in adult prisons leads to more crime, higher prison costs, and increased violence (Cooper, 1997). Yet, we are spending more and more on corrections, and less on prevention efforts. Some states spend more on corrections than they do on higher education. The cost of keeping juveniles in prison as compared to putting them into rehabilitation programs is astronomically higher. The Average cost of incarcerating a juvenile for one year is between $35,000 to $64,000. However, the average cost of an intervention program is $4,300 per child a year (Crary, 2000). Also the effectiveness of prisons to prevent juveniles from becoming repeat offenders is low. Kids, who have already spent time in adult prisons, are far more likely to commit more serious crimes when they are released. Crime prevention programs work and are cost-effective. They have been shown to reduce crime substantially when compared to imprisonment after crimes have been committed. There are many crime prevention programs around the country that have been very successful in helping to reduce juvenile crime. Many states use early intervention programs that are designed to help parents of troubled kids in raising their children. These programs offer strategies and tactics for helping supervise and discipline troubled children. This is done because it is believed that one of the causes of delinquency is that parents of kids with delinquent tendencies simply don't know what to do with them. These programs as well as other similar ones have been shown to have quite an influence on crime prevention.
Media reports on juvenile crime are greatly exaggerated. While some headlines suggested that a "ticking time bomb" of so-called "super predator children" is waiting to explode, the studies show that this is simply not true. Crime level indicators show that the male "at risk" population will rise over the next decade, but the levels are far from the explosive level that the media would like to suggest. In fact, the levels are lower than those reached in the late 1970's, when the "at risk" population last peaked (Crary, 2000). The public also holds greatly distorted views about the prevalence and severity of juvenile crime. Contrary to public perception, the percentage of violent crimes committed by juveniles is low. Young people commit only 13% of violent crimes (Reeves, 2001). Also, most juvenile arrests have nothing to do with violence. Most kids only go through the juvenile justice system once. Most youths will simply out grow delinquent behavior once they mature. The true "juvenile predator" is...
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