One issue that sparks a lot of debate and controversy involves juveniles being tried as adults. Juveniles are defined as children under the age of 18. However, this is a bit broad classification, because in some states the classification of a juvenile falls just below the age of 18 or above.
Age is supposed to be taken into consideration when punishments are given from crimes. In most cases, being tried as a juvenile results in lesser punishment. However, trying juveniles as adults for violent crimes is a trend that continues to be on the rise. Age is supposed to be a deterrent for placing those under 18 on trial and giving them stiffer punishments that are often reserved for adults. Many debate if juveniles really should have less severe punishments or if trying juveniles as adults will lower juvenile crime rates.
It is important to note that not everything surrounding trying juveniles as adults is viewed as a positive and not everything is a negative. There are both pros and cons attached to this issue. If you want to form your own unbiased opinion on the topic of trying juveniles as adults, it is important to begin analyzing both the pros and cons. This allows you to formulate an opinion with all the facts already in place.
Pros of Juveniles Tried as Adults
1. Crime is Crime
One reason for trying juveniles as adults involves giving crime the importance that it deserves. No matter the age of the criminal, the crime was still committed and this does not lessen the suffering of the victim. Juveniles tried as adults gives credence to the viewpoint that crime is crime and age should not factor into the punishment. Many feel that punishments for harsher crimes should not be restricted by age. Trying juveniles as adults makes all crimes equal and allows for more justice.
2. Deters Crime
Many of those arguing that juveniles should be tried as adults feel that the juvenile court system is failing. Some can argue that the juvenile court system does not deter crime and merely looks to guide young criminals toward a better path. Trying juveniles as adults helps to deter the crime rate by making more severe punishments available to juvenile criminals. Harsher punishments are more effective in halting crime and making juveniles vulnerable to stiffer punishments could help to keep them from committing more violent crimes for fear of the punishment.
3. Makes Criminals of all Ages Understand Actions
Another benefit of trying juveniles as adults is to make juveniles understand the consequences of their actions. Just because they are technically not considered to an adult, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to learn how actions have consequences no matter what your age is. This is a tough lessen that many feel should be learned at a young age. If drastic punishments are given early on, it could lessen the likelihood that juveniles would commit other crimes in the future.
4. 18 is Too High as a Cutoff for Children
Another pro for trying juveniles as adults can be linked to the belief that 18 is too high of an age limit. Many feel that the age limit for juveniles should be below 18. Those that fall closer to 18 should be tried as adults anyway. Making some juveniles be tried as adults is what many feel is fair. In fact, lowering the age limit is what many are pushing for. Making the cutoff age for a juvenile at 16 is what those for trying juveniles as adults feel is needed. If the age limit was lowered to 16, then no juveniles would then need to be tried as adults. Most cases of trying juveniles as adults deal with juveniles in between this gap.
Cons of Juveniles Tried as Adults
1. Juveniles Can’t Be Held to Same Levels of Accountability
One of the main reasons that people argue against juveniles being tried as adults can be traced back to accountability. The argument can be made that children under the age of 18 can’t be held to the same levels of accountability that adults are. They do not see the long-term impact that their actions can have and are not fully developed mentally to be held to the same standards that adults are. A child at the age of 15 or 16 does not have the same mature or developed through process that an 18, 19 or even 20 year old has gained. Trying juveniles as adults is seen by many to be an unfair form of punishment that does not take lack of judgment based on age into consideration.
2. The Role of Parents and Juvenile Criminals
Another negative aspect of trying juveniles as adults involves taking the onus off of the parents. Those opposed to trying juveniles as adults feel that parents are the ones that should be held accountable when children commit crimes. As some point, it comes back to the parent who is legally responsible for the child. Trying juveniles as adults does not account for peer pressure and lack of maturity that are often contributing factors to juvenile crimes.
3. Not Always a Sign of Things to Come
Just because a child runs into problems with the law at a young age does not mean that they will lead a life of crime. Many juveniles that commit crimes actually grow up to have no adult crime record. The thinking that juvenile criminals will only grow up to commit harsher crimes is one that is not based on fact. Traditional crimes for juveniles seem to be sufficient in helping to deter crime. Trying juveniles as adults is a level of punishment that is not needed to help deter crime in juveniles.
Reason Behind Trying Juveniles as Adults
The reason behind trying some juveniles as adults is twofold. It is not only designed to offer a fair punishment, but also deter some crime. Will it actually help to lower the juvenile crime rate by charging some juveniles as adults? Will stiffer punishments and sentences for some juveniles make the justice system seem fairer? These are just some of the many questions that are raised when the topic of charging juveniles as adults is raised.
What is the Age When Juveniles Should be Tried as Adults?
The one area where debate seems to breakdown involves the age at which juveniles should be tried as adults. Some feel it should only be those at least 17 years old, but others feel it should be based on the crime in question and not simply age. Determining the age or crime that would be used to try a juvenile as an adult is important. In some states certain crimes allow juveniles to be tried as adults, but other states do not allow for this exception.