Minors Tired as Adults Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3206 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Thus, stiffer penalties for minors who commit violent crimes are effective in reducing the reoccurrence of these violent crimes. Moreover, if as those opposed to stiffer sentences state, stiffer sentences do not decrease the commission of violent crime by potential offenders or the recidivism rates of violent offenders is true for all age groups, then the only logical argument to help reduce these violent crimes committed by these offenders would be in keeping these violent offenders incarcerated longer. Thus, the major argument that those who disagree with treating juveniles as adults in criminal court is illogical and counterintuitive to the actual data.

Regarding the argument that juveniles who commit violent crimes do not receive sentences proportional to the crime and data from studies like Ward and Kupchik (2009), this side cites research that is in opposition to that argument to indicate that juveniles sentenced in criminal court do receive harsher sentences as of the ones received in juvenile court for the same offense which is the point of sending them there (e.g., Fagan, 1996). The claims regarding that juveniles receive proportionally harsher sentences than adults who have committed the same crime are often confounded by the data chosen for the particular study in that it is impossible to equate different cases/juries decisions in such a manner.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Regarding recidivism rates and violent juvenile offenders the fact the matter is that regardless of one's age the data indicates that people who commit violent crimes are more likely to repeat their behavior in the future period (Fagan & Mazerolle, 2011). It is a well-established fact in psychological research that the best predictor of future behavior is the person's prior or past behavior in a similar circumstance (Fishbein & Ajzen, 2011). Moreover, it is also a well-established fact that violent criminals have higher rates of substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, etc. than the general population regardless of their age (Fazel & Seewald, 2012). Thus, increased recidivism rates, the high prevalence of psychiatric disorders, etc. are not valid arguments against stiffer penalties for any group, but instead reinforce the need for harsher penalties for people who commit prior crimes regardless of their age or any psychiatric history in order to keep them incarcerated longer and reduce the risk of their repeating these behaviors. These figures also reinforce the need for better treatment facilities in prisons to address these particular issues. Such figures do not support the halting of the incarceration of any particular group or any particular individual unless it can be determined that that group or individual is deemed incompetent to understand the ramifications of their behavior.

When someone argues that a reason not to send a particular person or a particular group of individuals to prison should be based on their potential vulnerability for abuse in prison one is not criticizing the judicial system as much as one is criticizing the penal system. The fact of the matter is that prisons are often harsh and dangerous places because they are inhabited by criminals. If one were to make an argument that juveniles should not be treated as adults when they commit serious violent offenses because they will be abused in prison it is akin to stating that the death penalty should not be enforced because it will kill someone. The fact of the matter is that punishment and prison are not designed to be comfortable or safe places for individuals to reside. Prisons should be scary and again the very fact that they are inhabited by criminals, especially maximum-security prisons that hold the most violent members of society, means that they are going to be scary places. Having stated that, the prison system in the United States of America is not perfect and certainly there are improvements that could be made that could reduce the rates of aggression and assault that occur in prisons by both other prisoners and by the prison staff. The real issue is that prisons, especially maximum-security prisons that house violent inmates, are violent places themselves and there could be more attention to making them regimented and reducing the violence, abuse etc. that occurs in them (Gottschalk, 2011). Thus, the argument that minors in adult prisons are abused at higher rates than adults are simply reflects an overall problem in the prison system that should be separate from the issue of charging violent criminals who are minors as adults.

Finally, regarding the argument based on the findings from developmental neuroscience and cognitive psychology that the brains of adolescents are not well-developed and that minors are incapable of making certain types of decisions such that they should be precluded from being tried as adults has not, in actuality, been found to be a viable defense in the court system (Maroney, 2009). Moreover, there is extreme very ability in development when looking at individuals, whereas groups tend to show patterns over time. It is this same individual variability that separates a criminal from a non- -- criminal (Vereijken, 2010). Therefore, there is a need to evaluate each case an individual basis like any adult case when there is a suspicion that the person charged with the crime may have not incompetent to understand the ramifications of their behavior when they committed the crime. There should not be a hard and fast rule to automatically eliminate anyone of a certain age from being held accountable for their actions.


When reviewing the arguments of both sides is quite clear that the pro-argument for treating juveniles as adults is based on logic, rationality, and concern for the victim of the crime, whereas the argument against treating juveniles as adults is more based on emotion and empathy for the perpetrator, but not the victim of a violent crime. The real solution to this dilemma as is a solution with any type of criminal behavior boils down to the idea of rehabilitation vs. prevention vs. punishment. There is no clear reason to think that prisons either engage in prevention of crime or are significantly involved in rehabilitating violent criminal offenders. If the goal of sentencing a violent criminal offender is to get them off the street for the longest period of time than the pro-argument for treating violent juvenile offenders like adults has significant merit. However, if the goal is to understand why people, including juveniles, commit such heinous acts and how they can be prevented or how such people can be rehabilitated certainly imposing harsh criminal sentences for such individuals do not appear to be effective. Moreover, arguments that rely on the notion that juveniles are not as well-developed as adults and are not able to comprehend their situation or the potential ramifications of their actions may apply to very young minors (e.g., age 10 and younger ) and may not be as applicable for minors who are in their middle and later teens.

Given the above arguments, the notion that each individual case should be considered separately with a standardized set of guidelines is probably the best approach to treating juveniles who are accused and convicted of very violent criminal actions such as murder, rape, robbery, assault etc. In the end there is no clear overarching solution that can be implemented in every single case, but every case should be assessed individually to determine the nature of the act, the state of the individual who is accused of committing the act, and the potential ramifications of treating such an individual as an adult. It appears that this approach is the one generally taken by most states.


Brink, D.O. (2004). Immaturity, normative competence, and juvenile transfer: How (not) to punish minors for major crimes. Bepress Legal Series, 120.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2014). Juvenile defendants. Retrieved on May 3, 2014 from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=236.

Fagan, J. (1996). The comparative advantage of juvenile vs. criminal court sanctions on recidivism among adolescent felony offenders. Law & Policy, 18(1-2), 77-114.

Fagan, A.A., & Mazerolle, P. (2011). Repeat offending and repeat victimization: Assessing similarities and differences in psychosocial risk factors. Crime & Delinquency, 57(5), 732-755.

Fazel, S., & Seewald, K. (2012). Severe mental illness in 33-588 prisoners worldwide: systematic review and meta-regression analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 200(5), 364-373.

Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (2011). Predicting and changing behavior: The reasoned action approach. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Gottschalk, M. (2011). The past, present, and future of mass incarceration in the United States.

Criminology & public policy, 10(3), 483-504.

Kleibeuker, S.W., Koolschijn, P., Jolles, D.D., Schel, M.A., De Dreu, C.K., & Crone, E.A.

(2013). Prefrontal cortex involvement in creative problem solving in middle adolescence and adulthood. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 5, 197-206.

Maroney, T.A. (2009). The false promise of adolescent brain science in juvenile justice.

Notre Dame Law Review, 85, 89-145.

Modecki, K.L. (2008). Addressing gaps in the maturity of judgment literature: Age differences and delinquency. Law… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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