juvenile delinquents

January 25, 2010

I think that juvenile delinquents should be tried as juveniles because they have not yet become adults. I would suggest that these are just kids regardless of their crimes. While adults may have the reasoning power to understand their crimes, a body of evidence suggest that juveniles do not have such mental capacity. Under this theory, because juveniles lack mental maturity, it would be arguably unfair for them to be tried as adults. However, a lot of people are against trying juveniles simply as juveniles because they believe if you do the crime, you must do the time.
When juveniles commit crimes, they are teenagers. Despite limited evidence to the contrary, some believe juveniles are not kids but are adults. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Hendricks suggested, should there not be, “Outrage over trying kids as adults, then sending them to adult prisons where they are abused and come out more dangerous and damaged than when they went in?” (Hendricks 2). How can it benefit society to put kids in prison as opposed to making them learn from their mistakes and crimes by imposing appropriate punishment and rehabilitation? Such rehabilitation enables juveniles to learn a valuable lesson, not commit another crime, and move on with the rest of their life.
Kids make mistakes everyday. While adults also make mistakes, usually no one is still teaching adults how to become adults. On the other hand, kids are learning how to be adults, but have not yet reached that stage. As Hendricks noted, “Their brains are wired differently. They don’t think things out the way we do.” (Hendricks 1). To punish a juvenile as an adult which could maybe include life in prison or being put to death, is way too harsh for a kid who is still learning how to be an adult. Many times, while it may be popular to sentence a juvenile to many years in prison, it would be far better and make more sense for these non-adults to get rehabilitation in the juvenile system, and have a chance for a second life. Otherwise, it is a pretty safe bet that if a juvenile is sentenced for a long time in an adult prison, he will come out more of a criminal than when he went into prison. This is not the way for kids to learn how to become adults. As Hendricks stated, this is “ Shocking, appalling, and unthinkable,” on the same level as the crime itself. (Hendricks 1).
Of course, some people point to only the crime and focus on that, instead of the age of the criminal. Under this theory, no amount of rehabilitation or punishment of the minor is sufficient unless the juvenile is tried and sentence as an adult. The support for this theory is that this is the only way to give justice for the victim or the victim’s family. This concept also has to do with the belief that rehabilitation of a juvenile will not work. As Wilde stated , “A lack of human morals cannot be treated or cured in rehabilitation centers.” (Wilde 1) This seems short-sighted. While justice for the victim or victim’s family is very important in the punishment of a minor, it can be accomplished without treating the juvenile as an adult. Proper rehabilitation in appropriate facilities is the way to go. For example, regimented “boot camp” for juvenile delinquents has worked in many settings. Under this situation, it is possible to give proper punishment and justice, and to teach the juvenile delinquent that what he did was wrong. Most importantly, this type of rehabilitation will teach juvenile that this is not to happen again. The juvenile will have learned his lesson.
Again, I do not believe that juvenile delinquents should be tried as adults. They are kids, and should not be punished for any crime in the way an adult would be punished. When society punishes a juvenile like an adult, the juvenile becomes more hardened and perhaps even more criminal. Rehabilitation can work with juveniles with the right kind of effort. It will require a commitment to make this happen in a successful manner.

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