Age: A Magic Number?
The age of 18 brings about freedom for young people in America. At 18, an individual legally becomes an "adult". An individual can now buy cigarettes or a home, enter adult-only clubs, vote, and even get married. Furthermore, from their 18th birthday and beyond, individuals are no longer tried for crimes in juvenile courts. Now, they are tried in adult courts. But, does one or two years make such a difference between sixteen year olds and eighteen year olds? Is it fair for one person, just seventeen years of age, to be tried in a juvenile court, receiving a lesser sentence for murder than an individual just six months older in age who committed the same crime? I think not. Trying juveniles as adults should be consistently allowed because punishment should be based on the severity of the crime, not the perpetrator's age.
When drawing out the outline of our country's justice system, our founding fathers thought little about consequences of crimes committed by juveniles. Children were considered their parents' property. So, when they committed a crime punishment was given at the discretion of their parents. The founding fathers would never have considered severe punishments for young people. They believed that children, in particular, were "vulnerable, fragile, and dependent innocents" in need of protection and understanding (Vannella). However, this belief seems difficult to attribute to juveniles who commit acts of violence.
The belief that juveniles possessed an innocence that protected them from reaping the consequences that adults must endure stayed strong throughout the next century. It was a common belief that juveniles should learn from their actions instead of paying for them. They should be reprimanded softly. Harsh punishments were thought to be unfair because juveniles were not yet mature enough to grasp the morality of their actions. Until the early 20th century, juveniles were still thought of as "little kids" undeserving of...
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