Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults? Law Essay Example

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Sewanee University of the South
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Juvenile offenders being tried as adults is a complicated issue, and each offenders case requires proper examination before deciding on whether to judge them as adults or not. Many factors make trying kids as adults difficult because they are not in a position to make sound judgments of situations and understand consequences of their mistakes. In the video ("Juvenile Justice | FRONTLINE | PBS," 2017), it is evident that these offenders experienced difficult upbringing at a young age which explains most of their actions. Three offenders Marquese, Jose, And Shawn, come from families that are dysfunctional while Manny grew up in the streets as a gang member. Living with parents who abuse substances always on business trips and have no place to call home affected their children negatively. It is a common trend for kids to imitate what their parents do on a daily basis and if they are addicts they slowly learn to abuse drugs mostly available at home. Abusing substance at an early age as in the case of Jose may have resulted in him beating his friend to death something he might not have done if he wasnt intoxicated. Children who grow up in such conditions have disabilities such emotional and social problems that cause them to act violently. According to (Willis, 2016), several symptoms indicate whether a child has emotional, social and behavioral problems. Despite the poor circumstances under which they grew in I do not in any way support their actions. Juvenile system in the past has recorded success stories from youth who have reformed through the rehabilitation system. The juvenile system, however, might successfully rehabilitate these kids, but when they get back to their normal lives, they face the same problems which could force them back into their criminal ways. On this issue, I believe juveniles can be tried as adults based on previous offenses that they have committed and if they fail to reform and reach the end of the line they can be tried in an adult court.

The juvenile prosecution must be sensitive to the needs of the youth and realize that students with disabilities are more likely to experience behavioral problems at school resulting in their expulsion, suspension and court referral (Willis, 2016). If the youth are to survive in classrooms prosecutors, need to collaborate with Individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) to ensure that all alternative measures are exhausted before prosecuting students with disabilities. Advocating for balanced justice should be the priority for juvenile prosecutors as it involves punishment as well as rehabilitation. The research conducted by (Mears et al., 2015) found that 54% of the respondents preferred the balance justice approach in handling approach while 31% and 15% opted for the rehabilitation and punishment approaches respectively. These go in line with my view that every first-time youth offender deserves a chance in a rehabilitation center. In my view jailing them alongside adults denies them a chance to reform and experience their growth to adulthood and reach a point when they can make their own mature decisions. Reforming requires rehabilitation which I believe is possible when it comes to young offenders. At a young age, children deal with many problems that affect them psychologically and triggers them to misbehave resulting in them committing crimes (Willis, 2016). According to me, a child can be shaped into a responsible adult through proper guidance within a rehabilitation center. My optimism on the youth reforming is overwhelming, and I cannot fail to express my belief in rehabilitation as an approach to juvenile justice. Jose, for instance, underwent rehabilitation worked hard in school and eventually graduated. In this case, his background had denied him a chance to prove himself as he had no opportunities given that his parents were irresponsible. His success story proves that a violent offender can reform through guidance and after that learn to be a responsible adult ("Juvenile Justice | FRONTLINE | PBS," 2017).

Morally it is wrong to prosecute a child as an adult simply because they committed an offense that is not in line with the rules of the schools. Teachers are quick to forward students for prosecution even on a minor issue that qualifies as status offense (Willis, 2016). Status offense according to (Willis, 2016) is a behavior a child exhibit due to their age. (Willis, 2016) States that signs as social skills deficit, poor grades, repeated suspensions, and absenteeism are indicators that a child may be suffering from social-emotional and behavioral disabilities. Observing this can enable teachers to convince the prosecutors to push for juvenile prosecution as opposed to being charged as adults. Ignoring these signs is morally wrong on both the side of the teacher and prosecutor no matter the offense committed by the child. Prosecutors require this information for purposes of placing the child under the IDEA services. Juveniles with disabilities who do not receive special education services in school suffer from cognitive deficiencies that diminish their ability to make good decisions and fail to understand the consequences of their actions (Willis, 2016). Why should we try such a child as an adult? It is unfair and placing him in jail will ruin them rather than reform as they grow within the walls. Zero tolerance policies in schools are detrimental to students with disabilities; this explains why there are too many children with disabilities in prison. Such kind of policies contradicts with the nature of juvenile courts whose foundation lies in the importance of both punishment and rehabilitation (Mears et al., 2015).

Despite the successful rehabilitation, the system has some ethical shortcomings that make it hard for the youth who have reformed. Why should reformed offenders have felony record when they have registered improvements in their behavior and expressed their will to conduct themselves as responsible citizens who follow the law. Jose for instance after undergoing rehabilitation and graduating it took him four months before he could land a job mostly because of his felony record as a child ("Juvenile Justice | FRONTLINE | PBS," 2017). Why should somebody suffer for the rest of their lives after reforming? Cases such as this make a life for such individuals frustrating and going back to crime will be their next option. In the case of Shawn, I believe he got a light sentence owing to previous criminal record. Furthermore, the nature of his crime was quite serious and thus should have been tried as an adult. Why should someone stab his father and be allowed to go have dinner with him it is dangerous and creates a perception that teenagers can get away with crime ("Juvenile Justice | FRONTLINE | PBS," 2017). Inequity in the justice system is evidently seen in the case of Shawn because he is white and comes from an affluent neighborhood. Considering race while making judgments makes it unfair for other kids from other races who get jailed for minor offenses.

The issue of juvenile justice is a broad issue with many challenges that cannot be solved by punishment, rehabilitation or both because of many contradicting laws. Legislations currently being passed makes it easy to try juveniles as adults. In the future kids like Jose, Shawn, Manny and Marquese will have to be tried as adults for their crimes because as it looks violent behavior would no longer be tolerated despite the reasons affecting them in their immediate environment.



Juvenile Justice | FRONTLINE | PBS. (2017). Retrieved 29 September 2017, from

Mears, D. P., Pickett, J. T., & Mancini, C. (2015). Support for balanced juvenile justice: Assessing views about youth, rehabilitation, and punishment. Journal of quantitative criminology, 31(3), 459-479.Willis, M. (2016). Utilizing Prosecutorial Discretion to Reduce the Number of Juveniles with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System. BYU Educ. & LJ, 191.


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