All through America it seems that juvenile children are committing extremely severe crimes. Fellow classmates and teachers are being murdered by juveniles as young as eleven and thirteen. As a result of this, a major issue has been raised, should children who commit a serious crime face the penalties as and adult? Do these kids know what they are doing? And more importantly do they know the consequences of their actions. The points that I’m going to be outlining are children don’t know/ know the consequences of their actions, harsh punishment has little effect, youths are more mature so they know the consequences of their actions, the notion of justice, children may not have been given adequate role modals, youths should be given harsh punishments so others will not copy them, children grow up with guns and it’s the shooters responsibility not the weapon used.
Those who believe that juveniles should receive adult penalties for serious crimes often claim that the young children are not fully aware of the crime they commit and destruction that will affect the victims of the crime.
For example in a shooting at Jonesboro, where an eleven and thirteen year old shot dead four school girls and a teacher, critics distinguished that the attack wasn’t committed at the spur of the moment or under the immediate influence of strong emotion. Instead they claim that the killings were highly planned and vigilantly carried out. The two juvenile killers were noted to supplied themselves with a gate away vehicle, wore camouflage clothing, selected a high vantage point form which to shoot, lured their innocent victims out by trigging a fire alarm and waited for the school doors to automatically lock before opening fire. (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 2)
The opposing view is that children in their opinion are unable to grasp the consequences of their actions. A child who kills very probably doesn’t realize the finality of death and so does not fully understand what he/she has done when they take someone’s life.
Correspondingly, it is claimed that children are unlikely to be deterred for a crime because they are terrified of a cruel punishment. According to this line of disagreement most children are impulsive and have a naive idea in their own immortality. This means that children are unlikely to think about possible punishments prior to committing a serious crime and are unlikely to be able to even envision penalties like life in jail being applied to them. This point was made by child psychiatrist William Licamele, who claimed, ” At age 11 or 12 kid are normally self-absorbed, self centered, magical, they don’t think anything can happen to them, there is going to be no retribution” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 4)
This meaning that the threat of harsh punishment will not prevent them from committing a crime. Thus, it has been argued that applying adult penalties to children who commit serious crimes will have little to no deterrent effect.
On the other hand, juveniles should receive adult punishments; fully premeditated murders (like the Jonesboro have been said to be) are no different just because juveniles have committed them. This point questions weather or not the young offenders are adequately aware of the cost of their actions to be held legally liable for them. Mr. Gerard Henderson, executive director of Sydney institute, has summed up this point of arrangement.
He claims, ” I certainly know what I was doing when I was 13 and 11. I suspect that Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden (shooters at Jonesboro) also know what they were doing” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 2)
Mr. Gerard Henderson also claims, ” Those days it is increasingly accepted that most children mature relatively early and that, in an intellectual and recreational sense. Most are relatively independent by 16 ” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 2) This indicates that youth are more mature and so its argued that they are more capable of appreciating the consequences of their actions than children in the past years.
Focusing on the punishment of these so called “more mature” youths is shortsighted, as the cause of the crime committed is probably outside the control of the children. According to this line argument, the general public is more likely to be able to prevent these crimes from occurring if they can discover why they are happening, rather than focusing on the punishment of the individual offender. This suggests that children who commit serious crimes are most likely victims of developments of society or inside their own families that they are not responsible for. E.g. same authorities have suggested that martial breakdown, the disintegration of extended family and families were both parents work may all be factors contributing to child crime. (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 4)
Many people say that it doesn’t matter that a child committed the crime, but that the damaged he/she caused to the victim is the same no matter the age of the perpetrator. Mitchell Weight, whose wife was one of the five killed at Jonesboro claimed, ” It doesn’t matter that those were boys. Their age has nothing to do with the fact that they murdered my wife and four others” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 3) Those who say that the crime and the damage should remain the same despite the age of the offender seem to mean that the punishment should be that same. This argument is based on the notion of justice. Those who affect serious harm to others should be given a proportionately serve penalty for their crimes.
Children may have committed a crime that has caused serious harm due to having had luck of guidance and emotional support. The child may suffer from feelings of desertion, alienation and damaged self-esteem. Which can encourage them to lush out at others. Such children may not have been given adequate role modals to help them cope with whatever hardship they will encounter in their lives.
Children who lush out at others and become juvenile offenders should receive comparable penalties to adult crimes so that other young people will not copy them. This point was put by Mr. Gerard Henderson, he argued and said that, ” The Jonesboro shooting was but the most recent in a wave of schoolyard murders where boys or young men have murdered students and teachers. Who is to say the soft treatment of one young murderer will not encourage another? ” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 3)
Societies such as the United States where guns are broadly accepted and where even young children are trained in the use of guns, are giving young offenders a mean of turning their teenage anger and resentment into homicide. If guns were not so widely available then most of the school shootings would have never happened, the child with the sense of grievance would have expressed it in a form such as fighting, truancy or disobedience in class. It has been claimed that children trained from an early age in the use of guns may be desensitized to potentially grave consequences. Children introduced to guns at an early age may simple regard guns as one more toy.
Although guns are widely available that opposing view is that you can’t blame the availability of weapons for any crime committed using them. A local in Jonesboro stated, ” You lay a gun on the table and a hundred years from now the gun will still be there, unless someone touches it” (Mclnerney, J, 1994: page 4) This argument is saying that the responsibility for the shooting rests with the shooter, not the weapon.
I personally believe that it depends on the offender, weather it was committed from a strong emotion or a planned slaughter. Either way they should first go into a program to help them. But if it was a planned slaughter, at the same time of being in a program they should get punished as an adult so they know that they can’t get away with it and no one else hopefully will not copy what they have done.
The issues that I have covered in this essay are that children don’t know/know what they have done, harsh punishment doesn’t work well, youths have grown up a lot more quickly, if they harm someone the offender should get the equal amount of punishment, they have has no good role modals, soft treatment will make other youths copy the offenders crime, guns are part if the youths life from a young age and it’s not the weapons responsibility of the crime that they have committed.
Mclnerney, J, 1994
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