The question of trying juveniles as adults has always been a dilemma of the justice system. Those in favor and against all raise seemingly legitimate concerns. Here are the main points from the opposing camps.
Why They Shouldn’t be Tried as Adults
The simplest answer is because they aren’t. A 15 year old that commits a crime must be tried as a juvenile because he / she is. No matter what the crime is, the fact is that they aren’t emotionally or mentally fully developed.
They may know what’s right and wrong. But teens aren’t yet at that stage when they realize the consequences of their actions.
Not trying juveniles as adults doesn’t mean offenders should get away with it. Having a probation officer is necessary. However, they need to be given counseling as well. A 14 or 15 year old has his / her whole life ahead. Shouldn’t the individual get a second chance?
Rather than vent anger on the youth, the larger part of the blame should be on the parents or guardians. These are the people responsible for guiding the child. Treating youths like hardened criminals is not the answer. The key is improving parent / child relationships.
Trying Juveniles as Adults: the Arguments
Those in favor of it stress the following facts. Number one, the kids of today are fully aware of what they’re doing. Maybe it wasn’t the case in the past. But it is now.
A 15 year old that shoots his / her classmate knows fully well what’s happening. He / she knows that the bullet will kill. The same rule applies with teenage gun runners or drug dealers.
Awareness of the Facts
These teens don’t just know what is right and wrong. They know that the justice system isn’t going to charge them as adults. Because the law treats them with kid gloves, these people become emboldened. The best proof they say, are the rampant cases of juvenile crimes.
It’s said that this is due to the weakness of the law itself. It has nothing to do with teen angst. It’s simply a case of youths exploiting the weakness of the justice system. By trying juveniles as adults, it will put fear in their hearts. Those in favor of this proposal say counseling isn’t as effective as doing jail time.
The bottom line is anyone who commits an adult crime must be handled as such. For petty crimes, giving a second chance is okay. But someone who kills must face the consequences.
They also say juveniles who commit serious crimes are rarely rehabilitated. They just become repeat offenders. The only solution is to impose stricter penalties. Even those who come from broken homes know that killing someone is wrong, so that’s not an excuse.
The debate over trying juveniles as adults isn’t likely to end soon. Politics and public sentiment will determine if this proposal is ever enforced. Until then, the arguments will continue. In the meantime, the crime rate will remain high.