Age is Just a Number, Right?
In the year 1993, a 2-year-old boy, named Jamie Bulger was taken by two 10-year old boys and was injured and murdered. The two boys rested his body on a railroad track with the intention of blaming the train, which would cover up what they had done (Wilde 1). Cameron Kocher a 9 year old from upstate Pennsylvania shot a rifle out of the window of his room and killed his 7-year-old neighbor, who was riding on a snowmobile (Schwartz 1). Shocking isn’t it? Who would believe children at such a young age could commit such crimes. The real question is what happened to these cases? Do both children get the death penalty? And if not, what punishment do they receive? Should juveniles get trialed as adults? That question has haunted many for decades now. But before we make any irrational decisions, let’s get to the facts. What exactly is a juvenile delinquent? Well it’s a child who commits acts that would be considered crimes if done by an adult. A child is considered a juvenile delinquent until they reach the of 18, 17 some states 16 (Britannica 1). Juvenile delinquency can include crimes like disorderly conduct, minor theft, rape and vandalism (Britannica 1).
Juveniles are usually tried in Juvenile Courts or also known as Family courts. The purpose of juvenile courts is to rehabilitate a delinquent and prevent from repeating behavior, instead of sentencing them to jail. “The systems rooted in the belief” that children have not matured entirely to be aware of their mistakes/actions ( Leora). However juvenile courts didn’t always exist. It wasn’t until in Chicago 1899 the juvenile court of law was started. Before this new system, children would be trialed as adults (Britannica 1). One of the very first juvenile cases was in 1786 in colonial times. Children under the age of seven could not be held guilty for a serious crime. From the ages 8-14 it was said that their legal status was “ambiguous”. If you were over the age of 14 you would be trialed as an adult (Jeffrey 16 & 17). The need for a juvenile system wasn’t looked upon because before “the behavior of children was the primary responsibility of the parents, particularly the father.” The community frowned upon those who could not control their children. When juveniles would go to a judge, the judge would just send them to jail for a short while, most of them would return.
The idea or system of trialing a juvenile different from an adult
didn’t come until the 1900’s (Jeffery 17). As the system was created they needed to make some regulations or rules for certain occasions. Offenders who were charged with a particular serious crime will go straight to a fitness hearing instead of having a juvenile court jurisdiction. A fitness hearing decides weather they should be trialed as an adult or juvenile. When making the decision they look at “ the minors degrees of criminal sophistication”, if they can be rehabilitated and the juveniles previous cases (Leora 6). Other situations a juvenile may be trialed in an adult are when “state laws mandate such processing for certain offenses with a set age and rage [statutory exclusion] ; prosecutors decide on a criminal proceeding with limitations based on offense and age [prosecutorial discretion] and the juvenile court judge decides to waive the case within limits based on offenses and age [judicial waver] (Britannica 3). A big problem was the punishment. What would be an effective way? Courts wanted to avoid the death penalty and jail time. In the 1890’s a juvenile could be sentenced to a death penalty. It wasn’t until 2005 when in the U. S. Supreme Court decided to raise the age for the death penalty to 18 in the Roper v. Simmons case (Britannica 3). In Georgia the death penalty age is 17 (Jeffery 17). Another regulation that was placed, that the court cannot make a jurisdiction that passes the age of 21. No matter what the offense is, juveniles are to be released at 21.
However if the juvenile is trialed in an adult court, than this condition wont apply (Britannica 4). So what is an effective way to help these juveniles? Family courts created all kinds of programs and activities. Such as, education based programs: that help educate children about the affect of drugs, gangs, sex and weapons (“Juvenile” 3). This program helps parents in monitoring and responding to a child’s behavior (Britannica 1). There are correctional programs known commonly as training schools. Also there are presentational programs. An example of one of these programs is Nebraska Correctional youth facility. They have juvenile delinquents that have been trialed in an adult court. The age ranges from 15 to 21. They teach the youth how to change their criminal behavior (“juvenile 4”). Other solutions for juvenile delinquency are recreational programs.
They’re effective because they fill unsupervised hours after school. It has been reported that youths are most likely commit a crime from 2pm to 8pm. Recreational programs allow youths to become friends with adults and children that are good influences (“Juvenile” 3). However there are many ineffective programs. Back in the 1990’s communities where scared for juvenile delinquency to increase so they came to conclusion that the harsher programs were, the better. They had slogans such as “get tough on crime” and “adult time for adult crime”. They created programs such as “The Juvenile Boot- camp (“juvenile” 5 & 6). Many people believe that the court it just to easy on their verdicts. So who exactly are these juvenile delinquents? What could cause a child to be so violent? Researchers found similar characteristics that are found in most juveniles. They display impulsive behaviors and difficulty showing gratification. Also more likely to perform poorly in school or droop out all together. Especially in those whose parents do not supervise or enforce any discipline or do not communicate. Also parents of juveniles are likely to have committed a crime them selves (Britannica 1 & 2). The majority of the cases involve males. Female delinquency began to increase in the 1980’s in the United States (Britannica 1). Most researchers who study juveniles believe that there is no single cause.
Some study biological factors. Others study how some people learn certain behaviors through social experiences. Sociologist explain that many go into criminal behavior as an adaption to a social environment in which they can’t attain their social goals (Britannica 1). Now that you know the facts and some more information…what do you think? Should juveniles be trialed as adults? Well I believe that yes they should be. That if they are committing an adult action they should pay for it like an adult. Many argue that children aren’t aware of what they’re doing. Honestly we sometimes underestimate children and don’t really look at what they are capable of. For example, Nathaniel Brazill, “a 14 year old boy convicted for the murder of his middle school teacher… Brazill shot his teacher Barrry Gunrow in the head on the final day of classes” (“Teen”). Who would think that a young boy would do this? Nobody I’m guessing, this is clear evidence that we need to pay a closer attention to children and not judge them on their age. Another example is, four teenagers, Humberto Guzman, Hassan Mayfield, Denzell Fell and Andrew Johnson, ages 13 and 15. They are “accused of a killing a student, Broderick J. Henman by chasing him into a car path way during a robbery attempt”.
A witness describes that Broderick was running way from the robbers. That they held him and punched him on the side of his head. He also said that they boys had laughed as the car stuck Broderick (Hartocollis 1 &2). This case strongly shows that these children know exactly what they are doing and have the same intentions as adults. So they shouldn’t have special treatment, when they act so brutal and awful. Many children who have committed “crimes such as rape, robbery assault, murder and attempted murder are exempt from being trialed as an adult because of their age (Wilde 1). Does that seem right to you? A child isn’t normal if he/she committed such atrocious acts. I think that most or at least part of the blame belongs to parents for their ignorance. I believe they should pay more attention to their children to spot or notice any weird changes in attitudes or behavior. An example of this is, “in February 2009 state police found 26 year old Kenzie Hauk in her bed with a bullet straight through her head. She was eight months old pregnant.”
The murderer was 11 year old Jordan Brown the son of the Fiancée (Chen 1).The boy had been jealous of his dads fiancée. Does this not grab your attention? This is obviously lack of parenting or communication coming from his father. If he were paying closer attention then he could’ve spotted that something was going on with his son Now that you’ve heard a couple of examples I really hope you were able to change perspectives if you did not agree in the first place. Just think how the families of these victims feel? Try putting your self in their places? Wouldn’t you want the killer to pay for debt evenly? I know I would. So why not avoid this from happening? Parents watch your children more closely and keep communication between you guys if you start to seem them acting up. Act fast, before you son or daughter is sitting in the court waiting for his/her verdict.