Should Juvenile Be Charged as Adults in Criminal Cases? Robert Horn Post University The purpose of the Adult Criminal Justice system is to punish offenders according to the severity of the crime committed. The juvenile justice system’s aim is to rehabilitate or mentor the juvenile offenders, in the hope that they can prevent further crimes, and to change their behavior. The motivating principle of the juvenile system is rehab. The reason for this is because juveniles are not fully developed, mentally or physically.
Many Juvenile offenders come from broken homes, been abused, or come from bad neighborhoods. Juvenile offenders need a second chance, because they have not even received a first chance. Rehabilitation is the best option for them because of the way they would be exploited and turned into criminals if they were sent directly to prison. If given the chance, the Juvenile Justice System can aid in successfully rehabilitating youthful offenders so they are not inclined to commit future crimes. With this reasoning, juveniles cannot be blamed or accountable for their actions the same way adults are.
The Justice System fulfills and important function by establishing standards of conduct. It defines what is right and wrong for people and removes them from the responsibility of taking vengeance out on those who wronged them, which deters the escalation of feuds in the community. The Justice System also protects the rights of citizens by establishing and honoring the principle that freedom shouldn’t be denied without a good reason. Rehabilitation does have its objective: to return offenders to their communities as cured members of the society. Efforts in the 1980’s and 1990’s were unsuccessful.
There was no one program that was more effective in the effort to rehabilitate youthful offenders than any other program. Because of this, a large portion of released offenders continued to return (Murphy 49). This led many people to believe that the best alternative was to simply remove offenders from the community, preventing vexation and exploitation. Because criminals are more often considered to be inclined to commit crimes than those never convicted of a crime, it follows that some benefits will be derived from incarcerating convicted criminals.
The potential of incarceration is great as a method of crime control if it is only a few hardened criminals who commit the most crimes. If those criminals can be identified, sentenced, and incarcerated for long periods of time, there would be a significant reduction in crime. Most supports of correctional reform have this view on the population of criminals. Blame for most of the crimes committed is most often place on a relatively few predatory, compulsive individuals thought to commit a large number of crimes each year (Newburn 54).
The last and final goal of this reform movement is reestablishing retribution. Retribution is the most moral of all penal goals. There is an element of rage included because the victim deserves the right to be repaid with pain for the harm suffered. Justice is achieved when the punished given to the offender is equal to the level of harm coming from the criminal act. Consequently, social balance is reestablished and maintained within the society. When it comes to juvenile offenders, the rules are thrown out the window.
There is a separate legal system for them and they are also categorized differently. By federal standards, any juvenile who is under the age of 18 who has committed a crime is a juvenile delinquent. This is a decision that society has made. Society believes that there are important and serious differences between adults and juveniles. A one-size-fits-all approach is not wanted and will make the situation worse. Juvenile offenders are easiest to influence and are also the easiest to bend.
It is believed that the actions a juvenile criminal might be influenced by outside sources such as neglect from parents, bad living conditions, or poor relationships with the family. Because of these factors, rehabilitation is a popular and attractive option in dealing with juveniles. Many of the rehabilitation programs ask that juvenile offenders with behavior problems meet with adult tutors to produce a stable, trustworthy friendship, which is expected to influence juveniles and to reduce their anti-social behavior (Maruna and Ward 33). Such a change in behavior is ade possible due to the trust and friendship between juvenile and adult – who can listen and care about the problems the juveniles may have, a role model, good advice giver, etc. In such a way, these mentoring programs may play a part on juvenile crime reduction. The goal of rehabilitation is to create law-abiding behavior and to encourage juveniles to know the consequences of what they do and to become law-abiding citizens. It can be a challenging process because it requires the use of the proverbial carrot and stick. The use of coercion and socialization is seen in child rising.
With young children, coercion is the only effective control. If a small child goes into the street, the child is disciplined and is told if he or she does it again, they will be punished again. These threats tend to be only effective when they are accepted; otherwise, people seek ways to bend the rules, or may blatantly disobey prohibitions. By sending such juveniles to prison my not prove to be an effective deterrent. Rather, it may be more effective to understand the socialization process of a juvenile, and try to re-wire it while the young person is still malleable.
Vedder explains this: To use sociological lingo: the juvenile acquires the delinquent behavior as he does any other cultural trait of the cultural heritage passed on to him by his group conformist delinquency, stressing the fact the child becomes delinquent through conforming with the behavior pattern in his group” (9) Positive adult guidance, understanding, and support can divert young offenders and also criminals from involvement in crimes and acts of disobedience and also to help them join in on the rules of and behaviors of local communities (Murphy 53).
To put it another way: what young offenders need are good adult role models. This can be found in quality rehabilitation programs. Most young offenders have started off on the wrong path, and they imitate the most irresponsible or abusive members of their social set or family. With proper guidance and role models, juveniles can begin to adjust their behavior. It is important to know that instead of looking at rehabilitation programs as a form of punishment, young offenders taking part of such programs should now that they are voluntary and consider them a positive opportunity to change their lives for the best. Such understanding does not come at once. The rehabilitation process can be a long, with juveniles provided with meetings, instructions, training and conferences. By providing juveniles with a positive adult role model, supervision, and continual training, mentoring programs aim to reduce the risk of a drift into numerous crimes. These of course, are not the exclusive means of rehabilitation.
It may be suitable to mix a softer approach with detention in a Juvenile Center or to take similar action. The carrot and stick is again a key analogy. Detention applied to juvenile offenders has been debated for years. Its advocates argue that it would prevent crime by detaining those offenders that are likely to re-offend (Russel 85). Its adversaries claim that it is unfair because it allows a judge to make a choice about a person’s future behavior. Because no one can accurately predict behavior, particularly criminality, the chances of mistakes are large (Maruna and Ward 83).
During the rehabilitation period, the type of sentencing most used is the indeterminate sentence. Legislatures have set wide ranges for sentencing, and judges measure out minimums and maximums that have a wide range. This allows personnel in corrections the discretion of releasing offenders once they are reformed. No one other than correctional authorities cared for this system. Inmates did not like it because their release depended on the whims of the parole board, and the inmates never knew for sure when they would be released (Russel 61).
Judges and the public did not like it because the prison term served was never the same as the actual sentence and was almost always shorter. Juvenile laws stipulate that if a young criminal committed a serious crime, they could be “waived” to the adult court system. The number of “waived” juveniles each year comes out to be around 8,000 (Deitch). This “waiver” system is used in all states except for Nebraska, New York, and New Mexico. The only time in these states when the “waiver” is applied is crimes that include murders or intentional killing of several people.
After examining the case, judges decided whether the juvenile should be tried as a juvenile or an adult. There are new laws specifying set lengths of sentences for juvenile offenses that allow for modification of the time served based on circumstances associated with a given incident (Russel 66). In some cases, a youth offender gets sentenced to five years, but he or she is only 15 at the time, he or she will not be transferred to the adult prison. Law states that a young offender should be detained in a special jail with other offenders until the age of 18 (Murphy).
While most young offenders are worthy of rehabilitation, society states that some are not. There are criminals of all ages who should be imprisoned due to the nature of their crimes. To say that the best way to deal with juveniles is to rehabilitate them is not to say that this method is perfect or will it work in every case. It is the best choice, due to the consideration of issues at hand. Depending on the severity of the crime, and the history of the offender, there are some instances where the age of the offender does not matter.
In 2006, in Omaha Nebraska, Cameron Williams is facing up to 110 years in prison for second-degree murder attempts and also using a weapon to commit a felony. Cameron Williams is 16 years old, and is being charged in the adult courts due to his troublesome past and the “serious nature of his crime. ” (Khan, 2010) In 1999, Lionel Tate, at the time 12, was the youngest juvenile offender in American history to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Tate was charged for the death of a 6 year old while practicing wrestling moves on her.
Such instances of these arrests show that depending on the severity of the crime, being a youth doesn’t matter in sentencing. (Reaves, 2001) Rehabilitation is part of a policy for young offenders who have entered the criminal justice system. The policies and programs, which help juveniles to escape imprisonment, are parole and probation. Restriction of the opportunity for parole and probation are often accompanied by new sentencing legislation. Many states have made it difficult to be placed on probation for certain offenses and impossible for serious ones.
Parole, which is defined as the conditional early release from prison under supervision in the community, has been restricted in many states. A return to determinacy and the abandonment of rehabilitation eliminates the need for parole, which, in theory, was designed to help the young offender prepare to reenter the community (Murphy 71). However, parole serves as another important function in controlling inmates in prison, and is one of the few rewards that can be manipulated. Because of this reason, many states have retained it.
The Administration of parole has been changed so that the sentence rather than the paroling authority determines the date of the parole hearing. Good Behavior Credit for time served-receiving extra credit for time served while maintaining good behavior-is another form of reward used in prison to control the inmates. Because of the way it reduces the amount of time an individual will serve, and modifies the original sentence; many states have considered eliminating it. However, heavy protesting against the legislation by correctional personnel has prevented its elimination.
Young people are less responsible and more malleable than adults. Many juvenile offenders who break the law have come from broken homes and abusive families. Some have never received the support that they deserve. Because they are young, and have many years ahead of them, our society has chosen to separate them from adult criminals, and to make an effort to rehabilitate them. This makes senses, because the cost of retribution is simply too much in many of their cases, and the burden on the criminal justice system and our moral compass would be insupportable. References
Crow, J. The Treatment and Rehabilitation of Offenders. Sage Publications Ltd, 2001 Deitch, Michele, et. al. From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System, Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs, 2009. Khan, K. (2010, July 12). Juvenile justice: Too young for life in prison?. Retrieved from http://abcnews. go. com/Politics/life-prison-juvenile-offenders-adult-courts/story? id=11129594 Maruna, S. , Ward, T. Rehabilitation (Key Ideas in Criminology). Routledge; New edition, 2007.
Murphy, J. G. Punishment and Rehabilitation. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999. Newburn, T. Criminology. Willan Publishing, 2007. Reaves, J. (2001, May 17). Should the law treat kids and adults differently?. Retrieved from http://www. time. com/time/nation/article/0,8599,110232,00. html Russel, C. Alternatives to Prison: Rehabilitation and Other Programs (Incarceration Issues: Punishment, Reform, and Rehabilitation). Mason Crest Publishers; Library Binding edition, 2006. Vedder, C. B. The Juvenile Offender: Perspective and Readings. Random House, 2002.
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