In today’s society more and more juvenile delinquents are being charged as adults in the court systems. The youth are being condemned by a society that allows fear to control its decisions. In the film Juvies narrated by actor Mark Wahlberg, a former juvenile offender, the lives of a group of young kids who are sentenced for many years or life are told. Throughout the film the group explains why they did what they did and how they wished they could have done it differently. One of the kids, a fourteen year old by the name of Anait, was sentenced for seven years. She had driven a group of boys to a high school where they then fought and killed another boy. Anait was charged with accessory to murder because she was the one that was driving the car. Another kid by the name of Duc was sentenced for 35 years, at the age of 16. He had no prior record, wasn’t a gang member but he was affiliated with a gang. He had driven a car that took part in a shooting, and even though no one was injured he was still found guilty.
I feel, as do many others, that our court system has become much too harsh when it comes to punishing the youth. There is a difference when being tough on crime and giving kids punishments that do not fit the crime. More and more of today’s youth are being sent to adult prisons where they cannot be protected. In a juvenile prison, kids are given second chances. There they learn to right their ways and are sent back out in society where hopefully they will become responsible adults. In adult prisons however, its survival of the fittest. There is no protection for those kids and no one to guide them on the right path. Statistics show that kids sentenced to adult prisons are more likely to end up back behind bars within five years of being released or committing suicide. The media plays a big part in condemning these children.
The media has demonized them and the crimes that they commit. Court systems have started to charge more for what could have happened rather than what did happen. Duc is an example of this. He was charged for a crime that wasn’t committed but could have been. Children should not be tried as adults because they cannot think as adults do. Science shows that a person’s brain is not fully developed until their early twenties. The cortex is still developing and this is the part of the brain that controls emotions and impulse. This is why children are more likely to get hotheaded more easily than if they were adults. If a child is not taught how to control his/her emotions than when they become adults these emotions will become harder to manage. Charging young children as adults does more harm than good. Some people feel that if you are going to commit crimes of an adult than you should be charged as an adult.
However, a child does not think like an adult nor do they know how to relieve their emotions is a healthy non destructive way. People like Gregory Boyle, Geoffrey Canada, and Aaron Kipnis want to help these kids rather than convict them for the rest of their lives. Children need guidance from responsible adults, especially men. Many boys end up in prison because they never had a dependable male role model in their lives. They don’t feel wanted or accepted, so they find it by other means. They look to gangs to feel like they belong somewhere. There are other approaches that do not involve scaring kids with the threat of prison or punishing them for years.
One of these approaches is restorative justice. Offenders are forced to take responsibility for what they have done. Not only do they have to confront their issues but they also get help. Another approach is guiding boys on the pathway to becoming a man. These are just some ways in which to save these boys from destroying their lives. There are so many children, both boys and girls that need help. They need friends, family, love, hope, and trust. They need someone that they can look up to and have faith in. Someone who they know won’t hurt them or throw them to the side when they make mistakes. With both discipline and direction, children from bad backgrounds can grow up and live crime free lives.