As juvenile offenders make their way into courtrooms around the country, the debate rages on about whether they should be tried as adults. There are viable points to be made on both sides of the argument and this is not a debate that looks ready to die down anytime soon. The following is a closer investigation of the pros and cons.
The Pros of Juveniles Being Tried As Adults
1. Proponents for trying juveniles as adults believe that a crime is a crime, even if the person who committed it was very young at the time. Typically, juveniles who display a propensity for committing crime will continue to do so, even as they get older. Their crimes may even become more serious in nature. The victim still suffers, even if the perpetrator is a juvenile.
2. A juvenile who is tried as an adult could end up being scared straight, which will deter them from continuing to break the law. Spending a few nights in jail around hardened criminals can often be the wake up call that a juvenile offender needs in order to realize the error of their ways and make the necessary changes to their lifestyle.
3. Attacking juvenile crime lowers the overall crime rate and allows us to live in a society that is much safer. A juvenile who knows that they will be punished for their crimes is far less likely to commit them. Other juveniles who may be considering committing a crime will also view the harsh punishment of their peers as a powerful deterrent.
The Cons of Juveniles Being Tried As Adults
1. A juvenile offender may not have a clear understanding of the crime they committed. A child’s brain is not fully developed and their sense of right and wrong is much different than an adult’s. The juvenile could be lacking a strong adult presence in their life, causing them to act out. Their actions could be a cry for help.
2. Studies have shown that the adolescent brain does not process jail time in the same way as an adult brain. An adult will typically spend their sentence thinking about what they did, which typically leads to remorse. An adolescent does not approach a prison term in this way and often times, they will spend their sentence repressing the memory of their crime.
3. Punishing the child lets the parents off the hook for their role in the crime. When a child is still living under the roof of their parent and/or guardian, they should take some level of responsibility for the juvenile’s actions. A parent must take the time to teach a child right from wrong and how to handle their responsibilities. Expecting a child who has not been taught how to live in society in the proper fashion to behave in the right way is a foolhardy endeavor.