The Controversial Debate of Trying Juveniles as Adults in the Criminal Justice System

June 3, 2023

Juvenile justice has been a matter of great concern for policymakers, judges, and the public for many years. One of the most controversial debates in the field is whether juveniles should be tried as adults. In recent years, the trend of trying juveniles as adults has increased, and many are questioning the wisdom of this approach. This article will explore the issue of trying juveniles as adults and the arguments for and against this practice.

What is the definition of a juvenile?

A juvenile is defined as a person under the age of 18. In most states, juveniles are considered minors and are therefore subject to different legal provisions and procedures than adults. Juvenile justice systems were established in the late 19th century to provide a separate and distinct system of justice for minors. The primary purpose of this system was to provide rehabilitation and education to young offenders, rather than punishment.

Why do some juveniles get tried as adults?

In some cases, juveniles who have committed serious crimes, such as murder or sexual assault, may be transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system. This transfer can occur through a judicial waiver, where a judge decides to transfer the case to adult court, or through statutory exclusion, where state law requires that certain crimes be tried in adult court.

Arguments in favor of trying juveniles as adults

  1. The seriousness of the crime: Proponents of trying juveniles as adults argue that some crimes are so serious that the perpetrator, regardless of age, should be held accountable in the adult criminal justice system. They believe that trying juveniles as adults is a necessary step in ensuring that violent and dangerous criminals are punished and held accountable for their actions.

  2. Public safety: Another argument in favor of trying juveniles as adults is that it protects the public from future harm. Juveniles who have committed serious crimes are often considered a high risk of re-offend, and many believe that trying them as adults will reduce this risk and protect the public from future harm.

  3. Deterrence: Some proponents argue that trying juveniles as adults will serve as a deterrent to other juveniles who may be considering committing crimes. They believe that the threat of being tried as an adult will deter juveniles from committing serious crimes, thereby reducing the number of crimes committed by minors.

Arguments against trying juveniles as adults

  1. Lack of maturity: Opponents of trying juveniles as adults argue that juveniles are not fully developed and lack the maturity of adults. They believe that juveniles are less able to understand the consequences of their actions and that they should be given a chance to reform and change their ways.

  2. Rehabilitation: Another argument against trying juveniles as adults is that the adult criminal justice system is not equipped to provide the rehabilitation and education that juveniles need. Juvenile justice systems are designed to provide rehabilitation and education, whereas adult criminal justice systems are primarily focused on punishment.

  3. Permanent consequences: Those against trying juveniles as adults argue that the consequences of being tried as an adult can be permanent and have a devastating impact on the juvenile’s future. A criminal record can limit job opportunities and make it difficult for a juvenile to reintegrate into society.

The debate over trying juveniles as adults is a complex and controversial issue that elicits strong opinions on both sides. Both arguments have merit, and the decision to try a juvenile as an adult should not be taken lightly. The goal of the juvenile justice system should be to provide rehabilitation and education to young offenders, while also holding them accountable for their actions and protecting the public from future harm.

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