What Happened to Juvenile Justice?
There is a great deal of controversy over the trying and sentencing of juvenile offenders today. Many will argue that because the severity of Juvenile crimes has risen, the severity of its consequences should rise; however, no matter how serious the crime is, juvenile offenders tried as adults receive far worse than they deserve. The majority of Juveniles tried as adults are hardly given any form of human rights. Adult jails are not the environment children should have to experience, especially those sentenced for misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. There are other solutions to reducing juvenile crime. It does not take adult court to straighten out kids on the wrong path. Most children are not even able to recognize that what they had done is wrong. There may be no perfect solution to reducing juvenile crime, but there are ways far more effective than adult trying and sentencing.
When considering the idea of trying and sentencing juveniles as adults, it is important to know exactly what these procedures may entail. Amnesty International, a human rights group, found that Juveniles are often subjected to physical and sexual abuses while in detention (World: Americas Amnesty Says US Jails Too Many Children). An environment like this is far too hostile and dangerous for children. Not only does this environment bring on more punishment than needed, it is a major violation of human rights. How would a sentence like that make any child a better person? If anything, it would have more of a negative effect. Police records show that anyone sentenced to time in an adult jail, will most-likely return in a short period of time. Most reports and investigations, such as Amnesty Internationals, show that juveniles sentenced to adult jails are more prone to violence than they would be outside of jail. Everyday, these children would have to defend themselves, and go through a violent struggle to get a moments worth of peace and freedom.
The other adult inmates are not the only problem with giving juveniles adult sentences. The facilities itself are not the right environment for a juvenile. In a study conducted by the US Department of Justice, a Baltimore detention center (in which juveniles were held) restricted showers, lacked proper mental health services, and served inadequate food. It is at this point that people must realize that sentencing juveniles to adult prisons is not only doing more harm than good, but it is simply unhealthy.
It should be obvious that the conditions of and adult jail are far too extreme for any juvenile to handle, but there are some that argue that most juvenile crimes today are severe enough to meet adult charges. Today, more youths are involved in gangs, murders, and assaults than history has shown. So, if these children are capable of committing adult crimes, shouldnt they face adult consequences? It seems that the severity of juvenile crime has risen so much, that it is hard to distinct it from adult crimes. On the other hand, most adult offenders we find today, who commit murder or assault are not first time offenders. The unfortunate thing is that a survey given by the Pretrial Services Resource Center found that an astonishing number of juveniles in adult facilities were charged with nonviolent crimes (ABCNews.com: Juveniles in Adult Jails. When it comes to adult trial, the defendant is usually contained in an adult prison throughout the trial. After one night in an adult jail, a child would not be as mentally stable as before, and being ready for trial would simply be out of the question. Sure, the nightly news will show a great deal of youth violence that is as severe as adult crimes, but they will not show the high number of youths that committed petty crimes, sentenced to stay in a truly dangerous environment.
It is possible that there is no real solution to preventing juvenile crimes, but it should be obvious that adult trial and sentencing is not the right answer. There are programs similar to boot camp, which can work to do nothing but improve a childs behavior. These programs teach the lesson needed to be taught, while keeping juveniles out of a hostile and dangerous environment. Instead of being confined to a jail with people twice the offenders age, juveniles put into an environment of other youths their age who want to be their no more than the next guy is. The majority of children sent to boot camps usually come out in better shape mentally and physically than they were when they went in.
There may be no real answer to determining the best treatment for juvenile offenders, but it is obvious that trying and sentencing youths as adults is only detrimental to his or her behavior. Youths today may commit more severe crimes than what they used to, but placing them in an environment of hostility and abuse will only throw gas on the fire.
1.ABC NEW ONLINE. (2000). Juveniles in Adult Jails, Section: Daily News. retrieved April 5, 2001, from world wide web: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/juvenilejail001026.html
1.BBC Online Network. (1998) Amnesty says US jails too many children, Section: World, Americas. retrieved April 5, 2001, from World Wide Web: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/worl/americas/newsid_216000/216492.stm