Children are generally considered to have underdeveloped reasoning skills. Their wisdom is usually limited and cannot be generally compared to that of adults. This has necessitated most governments to set up juvenile courts to charge the children who commit crimes. The juvenile courts usually consider the fact that the children are less wise in passing the judgments on the children. Most of the offenses that the children commit are usually minor and hence they do not require tough judgments.
However, there have been varied cases of children who commit offenses, which attract capital punishments. Cases of children shooting other children either in schools or in the neighborhoods have been reported in most of the countries and societies in the world. Just recently, a 14-year boy from Staten Island was accused of killing two of his sisters by slitting their throats before setting their house on fire and killing the rest of the family members who included his mother and two-year-old brother (McNiff, 2010). Numerous other cases of children killing other people have been reported.
This raises the question as to whether the children who commit the offenses should be tried in the adult courts. In addition, if they are charged in the adult courts should they face justice similar to that given to the adults. This issue has been a subject of intense debate. There are people who support the idea and use the argument that if the children are capable of committing the crimes they should face the full force of the law as they have proved that juvenile justice cannot be used on them since children do not kill. They only know how to play. There are also people who strongly oppose the idea. These people use the argument that children are usually victims of certain circumstances. In most of the situations where the children have killed other people neglect of the adults is usually the main cause, which leads to criminal offenses. Hence, the children should not be tried as adults. Instead, the adults whose neglect led to the committing of the crime should face the full force of the law. Generally, when the children are tried in adult courts they face harsher punishments compared to the punishments in the juvenile courts.
This paper will try to explain the issue using different perspectives to effectively capture the issue. It will explicitly explain the issue for a clear understanding of it.
Recent trends in the juvenile justice
Throughout America, there has been a general increase in the number of youth who are tried in the adult courts. California was the first state to reduce the age at which children could be tried in adult courts. This occurred after the Colorado school shootings, which occurred in April 1999 (Young and Gainsborough, 2000 p. 4). This resulted in a change in the legislature to ensure that the children who commit serious crimes are tried in adult courts.
The juveniles can be tried in the adult courts through various methods. In some of the cases, the prosecutor is usually at his discretion to directly refer the juveniles to adult courts. These are usually dependent on the crimes committed by the juvenile and their ages. Different countries and states in America have different legislation to determine the nature and age, which warrant the juveniles to be transferred to adult courts (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p. 4).
In some of the cases, the juveniles are not taken to the juvenile courts. They are directly prosecuted in the adult courts. In most cases, the juveniles have usually committed serious crimes. Most countries and states have a formula that they use to determine whether the juvenile will be transferred to the adult courts or not. This usually factors in the age of the offender and the gravity of the crime committed (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p 4).
If a juvenile has been prosecuted in an adult court, most of the cases require that the subsequent cases, which the juvenile will face, be undertaken in the adult courts. In most situations, the preceding cases are just referred to the adult courts regardless of the gravity of the cases, which the juvenile committed (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p 4).
Reasons that make the juvenile commit the offenses
The reasons that make the juveniles commit criminal offenses are usually varied. However, statistics clearly show that most of the murders committed by juveniles are usually using guns. In some states and countries, juveniles are generally recruited into the underground drug trade markets. These drug cartels usually have fierce rivalry between different factions. An increase in the wars between the cartels usually makes most of the juveniles carry guns in the streets for self-defense and in effect use them when necessary (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p. 3).
Another major reason that makes the juveniles commit serious crimes is that they may have drug or alcohol problems. Juveniles with a drug problem are more likely to commit crimes than other youths. However, even though not all the youths who have drug problems commit the crime, most of the youths who commit crime have an underlying drug problem (VanderWaal, et al. 2001, p. 7). The reasons that make the juvenile have drug problems are usually varied, ranging from family breakups, abusive parents to peer pressure.
The youths may also result to crimes due having antisocial behavior. These youths may be involved in activities that generally go against the norms of society. However, most of the youth are usually faced with the condition but it gradually disappears as the youth approaches adulthood. However, some of the youths remain antisocial and in effect form certain criminal groups, which conform to the antisocial habits. This makes the youth lead a life of delinquent behavior (world youth report, 2009 p. 191).
The media also results in the youth resulting to violence to solve any of the problems, which they face. The media popularizes the cult where the heroes in various programs that the media airs usually use violence to solve the problems that they may be faced with. The media do not also portray the true consequences of the violence in the programs that they air. The pain and agony of the actions are usually far much less than the pain of the violence in reality. This usually leads the children to use violence to solve their problems (world youth report, 2009, p. 196). The form of violence used by the youths is usually dependent on the weapons available to them. The children may use guns if they are readily available to them. They may also use knives and any other weapon, which may have adverse effects on the targeted person or people.
There are various other causes of juvenile involvement in the crime. However, most of the causes are mainly concerned with the break up of the social setup of the family and the society in which the children live. the most notable cause of juvenile involvement in crime is the breakup of the family systems or the presence of other problems in the family. The children may have abusive or alcoholic parents. The children usually have no control over these aspects of society. Hence, the children can be said to be victims of circumstances that are beyond their control.
Effect of adult court on the juveniles
Taking children to adult courts usually has far-reaching effects on their life and development in general. When the juveniles are tried in adult courts, they are highly likely to face penalties that are similar to that of adults (Campaign for youth justice, n.d, p. 2). Hence, the juveniles may be jailed in adult prisons. In prisons, the juveniles are highly likely to be assaulted physically or sexually by the other prisoners. Some studies have shown that the juveniles sentenced to serve their terms in adult courts are five times more likely to be sexually abused by the other inmates (Taylor, 2002, p. 995). Other forms of violence on the juvenile are also high.
The jail term usually makes the juvenile lack the basic education that is essential to their future life. The juveniles also receive very little mental health treatment or a program to rehabilitate them back to society (Campaign for youth justice, n.d, p. 2). These usually have a significant impact on their future life as integral members of society. Lack of education makes the juveniles have limited career paths. In addition, the lack of rehabilitative programs and mental health treatment impacts negatively on their future development as members of society. Most of the youth are usually traumatized by the condition they find in adult jails. These jails are usually characterized by a high level of violence among the inmates and from the warders.
In most of the cases carried out in the juvenile courts, the criminal files are usually closed after the juvenile, attains adult age (Larson, 2000). In the case of juveniles who are tried in adult courts, criminal files are not usually closed. They remain opened and they may be used if the juvenile commits criminals as an adult. The unsealing of the criminal files usually has far-reaching effects on their ability to obtain employment and access education (Campaign for youth justice, n.d, p. 2).
Justice system in the adult courts
The justice system of the adult courts is usually made to suit the trial of adults in the courts. On the other hand, the justice administration in the juvenile courts is made to suit the needs of the juveniles. It considers many factors that are relevant to their needs as they are underdeveloped. For this reason, the judges and lawyers in the juvenile courts are trained to handle juvenile cases (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p. 7). The lack of judges and lawyers in adult courts to understand the specific issues relating to the juveniles usually disadvantages the youth in the administration of justice.
During the arrest, the children are more likely to report to the authority figures and hence they may over implicate themselves in criminal activities. They also lack consistency in narrating the events as they occurred in the case in question. This sometimes makes the judges discredit their evidence due to conflicting information (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p. 8).
The children are generally disadvantaged during various stages of the trial of their cases in adult courts. The children do not generally know which issues to prioritize and hence help their defense attorneys to effectively defend their cases. The children are also disadvantaged in their request for bail. This is because they generally have no employment and rarely do they own any property. Therefore, the judges may fix bails, which are generally low to the adults but are unattainable to the children (Young and Gainsborough, 2000, p. 8). The lack of a clear understanding of the various factors that are relevant to the children by the judge or jury usually makes the children receive sentences that are not appropriate. The trial of children in adult courts can therefore be generally considered to undermine the justice on the children.
Effects on recidivism of the juveniles
The principal aim of jailing criminals is mainly to correct the criminals and ensure that they do not engage in criminal activities in the future. To ensure that recidivism reduces most governments have put in place measures to ensure that the probability of future criminal activities of the offenders is significantly reduced.
However, for juveniles who are tried in the adult courts, their recidivism rates have been found to be significantly higher compared to that of the juveniles who are tried in juvenile courts. Some studies indicate that the youth who are sentenced to adult courts are twice likely to commit more crimes (campaign for youth justice, n.d, p. 2). The youths who were tried in the adult courts are also more like to be arrested for serious criminal activities compared to the other youths, who were convicted in the juvenile courts (Miller-Johnson and Rosch, n.d, p. 21). Inside the jails, the juveniles are usually subjected to very severe treatment. The juveniles get to interact with the hardened criminals. They also live in an environment where violence is the main form of solving issues. These usually teach the prisoners how to commit crimes. By taking the criminals to the adult courts and subsequently jailing them in adult prisons, prepares them for a lifelong career in a felony (Taylor, 2002, p 992).
The adult jails do not pay much attention to the rehabilitation of the criminals in the family set up and the society. These are usually far much enhanced in juvenile detention programs (Taylor, 2002, p. 992). The lack of provision of vital services leads to the increased recidivism of the juveniles. Therefore, taking the juveniles to adult courts does not help in reducing the criminal activities of the juveniles. It only helps in increasing their probability to commit more crimes and maybe the starting point in the long careers of the youth as criminals. This generally undermines the public security of people living in the community.
Killing is a very grave offense regardless of whoever commits the crime, whether a juvenile or an adult. The people who commit the crimes should therefore face the full force of the law due to their actions. They should be subjected to the most severe penalties available in the legislation of the countries concerned.
However, special consideration must be given to the juveniles who commit the crimes. It is a fact that some of the juveniles who commit the crimes pose a real threat to the community. These juveniles should therefore face the full force of the law. Sparing them will only help them in committing more crimes. However, most of the juveniles who commit the crimes do not fall under this category. These youths commit crimes mostly due to factors, which are beyond their control. A fair trial of the youth in the juvenile courts can have suitable results. This may help them in being reintegrated back into the society and therefore lead normal lives.
However, the sentencing of the youth in the adult courts seems to have more disadvantages than advantages. It only helps in enabling the youths to develop into criminals that are more dangerous in the future. Therefore, trying the youths in adult courts seems to be an injustice to the youth. The adult justice system does not understand the youths and the factors that may have led them to commit the crimes. In addition, in the hearing of the cases justice is not administered, as the court is usually oblivious of the specific needs of the children.
Campaign for youth justice. (N.d). Trying youth as adults fact sheet. JJDPA fact book. Web.
Larson, A., (2000). Juvenile offenders. Expert law. Web.
McNiff, E. (2010). Staten Island Boy Accused of Murdering Family, Self in Gruesome Crime. Web.
Miller-Johnson, S. and Rosch, J. (N.d). Juvenile or adult court: research on future offending. Centre for child and family policy, Duke University. Web.
Taylor, J. (2002). California’s proposition 21: a case of juvenile injustice. Southern California law review, vol. 75:983. Web.
VanderWaal, C. J. et al. (2001). Breaking the Juvenile Drug-Crime Cycle: A Guide for Practitioners and Policy Makers. US department of justice. Web.
World youth report. (2009). Juvenile delinquency. United Nations. Web.
Young, M. C. and Gainsborough, J. (2000). Prosecuting Juveniles in Adult Court an Assessment of Trends and Consequences. Washington: The Sentencing Project. Web.