Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults Research Proposal

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Criminal Justice

Should Juveniles be tried as Adults?

The juvenile justice system in the United States has conventionally emphasized individualized treatment and rehabilitation. This focus has shifted over the years, however, and while juvenile courts are still directed at reform of young offenders, juvenile proceedings have become more punitive in nature (Steward-Lindsey, 2006). Recently there has been a dramatic change in the way juvenile crime is viewed by policymakers and the general public. This shift has led to widespread changes in policies and practices that concern the treatment of juvenile offenders. Rather than choosing to classify offenses committed by youth as delinquent, there has been a movement to redefine them as adults and transfer them to the adult court and criminal justice system (Steinberg, 2009).

There have been few issues that have confronted a society's ideas about the natures of human development and justice quite like serious juvenile crime. Because people neither expect children to be criminals or expect crimes to be committed by them, the intersection between childhood and criminality creates a dilemma that most people find difficult to deal with. The only way out is to either make the offense something less serious or to redefine the offender as someone who is not really a child (Steinberg, 2009).

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Over the last 100 years, American society has most often chosen to redefine the offense as something less serious. It has dealt with juvenile offenses by treating most of them as delinquent acts to be adjudicated within a separate juvenile justice system. This system is theoretically designed to recognize the special needs and immature status of young people and emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. The prevailing thought process was that juveniles have different competencies than adults and therefore need to be adjudicated in a different type of venue and second that they have different potential for change than adults and therefore merit a second chance and an attempt at rehabilitation. States have recognized that the criminal act alone should not by itself determine whether to try a juvenile in the adult criminal justice system (Steinberg, 2009).

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults Assignment

Most rational people agree that there are a small number of juvenile offenders that should be transferred to the adult system because they pose a legitimate threat to the safety of other people. The harshness of their offense warrants a more severe punishment, or their history of repeated offending does not bode well for their rehabilitation. However, there are many juvenile offenders who are currently are being prosecuted in the adult system, who do not belong there. These offenders have largely been charged with nonviolent crimes. When the transfer of offenders to adult court becomes the rule rather than the exception, there becomes a fundamental challenge to the very premise that the juvenile court was founded on, the fact that adolescents and adults are different (Steinberg, 2009).

Since the inception of juvenile court more than a hundred years ago, the underlying basic assumption has been that juvenile offenders shouldn't go through the adult criminal courts. The juvenile court was originally created to handle juvenile offenders on the foundation of their youth rather than the crimes they commit. The purpose of juvenile court is to treat and guide the children rather than punish them. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was a public push for getting tough with juveniles and trying them as adults. Many states passed laws making it easier to try certain youthful offenders as adults, while some states even considered the radical plan of abolishing juvenile courts altogether (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

Those that support the idea of getting rid of juvenile courts center their arguments on the need to punish juvenile criminals and to protect the juveniles' rights. There argument includes:

That juvenile court was founded on false grounds because its purpose is to protect youths from the consequences of their own actions.

Overall juvenile court fails to deter juvenile violence.

The severity of the current juvenile crime problem requires that all juvenile offenders should be punished in order to discourage the next generation of juveniles from becoming predators.

Justice stresses that juvenile courts should be abolished. They believe that if juveniles were tried in adult courts, they would be afforded their full array of constitutional rights (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

On the other side of this argument are many experts that believe that getting rid of the juvenile court will only make things worse. They feel that:

The premise of the juvenile court is good because of the fact that children have not fully matured yet so they shouldn't be held to the same standards of accountability as adults.

The purpose of the juvenile court is to treat and rehabilitate, not to deter or punish.

Changing the social environment in which juveniles live is a more effective in reducing juvenile violence than punishing them in adult courts.

While the denial of full constitutional rights for juveniles is sometimes a problem, the juvenile court's mission is compassion and to serve the best interests of the children (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

Even with all the debate about whether or not to abolish the juvenile court system there is a more important question that needs to be addressed. And that is how juvenile delinquency can be reduced when neither the present juvenile courts nor adult criminal courts are designed to deal with the various environmental factors that contribute to the causes of juvenile violence (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

It is believed that initial causes of juvenile crime can be found in the early learning experiences within the family. These involve weak family bonding and ineffective supervision, child abuse and neglect, and conflicting and harsh discipline. There are indications that very poor urban communities often put youths at a greater risk for involvement in violence. It is believed that some neighborhoods also provide special opportunities for learning or participating in violence (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

The presence of gangs and illegal drugs often provide an increased exposure to violence, negative role models, and possible rewards for youthful involvement in violent criminal activities. Schools also play a part in producing juvenile violence. A main cause of the beginning of serious violent behavior is the involvement in a delinquent peer group. Alcohol and guns also play a huge role in violent behavior by juveniles. Growing up in poverty and unemployment has major effects on the likelihood that a young person will turn to violence during the move to adulthood (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

There have been several other strategies proposed other than incarceration that can be used in preventing serious juvenile crime. These include:

Making it harder for youth to access handguns as a way of reducing gun-related crimes by juveniles.

Improving the schools that serve juveniles that live in poor urban communities.

Providing parents with the skills and resources to show their children unconditional love in safe settings in order to reduce child abuse and neglect.

Creating meaningful job opportunities and employment training programs to help ease poverty (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009).

In response to the ever growing concern about the increases in juvenile crime, and to federal requirements that crime be reduced in order for local governments to qualify for grant funding, all fifty states have set out to increase policies toward juvenile crime. The central idea to most of these policies is try juveniles as adults who have committed certain felonies. At first look, such a policy seems very straightforward. In reality though, the issue is very complex. Because each state sets its own guidelines for the circumstances under which juveniles will be transferred to adult criminal court and for how the juvenile will interact with the adult court it is very difficult to have any unity. Every State has a different view on the processes for transferring juveniles to criminal court. They also have different ideas on whether the juvenile remains within the adult criminal system or is transferred back to the juvenile system. The entire issue is complicated by the differences in how the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal system in each state handles the various steps in the process from confinement, trial, sentencing, and incarceration (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2007).

Critics against trying juveniles as adults claim that incarceration in a juvenile facility has a much better effect on the offender than incarceration in an adult prison. Usually delinquent juveniles serve sentences in facilities that are strictly for juveniles. These facilities include group homes, shelters, detention centers, or boot camps. As more and more states move towards juveniles being tried and sentenced as adults, problems have arisen from juveniles being housed with adults. These issues have included prisoner-on-prisoner brutality and increased recidivism due to what the juvenile learns in prison. It is believed that if a teen-ager is locked up with an adult offender, they get more than just a cell mate the get a role… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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