For most Americans the freedom to avoid a cruel and unusual punishment is granted within the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. A heinous crime is committed, an individual is found to be guilty in a court of law, and death is a possible sentence. Many Americans agree that this system of criminal justice has served its purpose for decades. The problem lies in determining how old a person should be when considering the death penalty. Should juveniles be sentenced to death? And if found that death is not an option, how will the criminal justice system resolve the dilemma of juvenile offenses? As technology enhances, our younger generation is finding it more difficult to obtain satisfaction in the ideas of old. For this day and age, activities like climbing trees, racing a friend barefoot in the street, going to the park to play, or just going for a stroll while chatting with a friend, are things of the past. Eventually, participating in a lifestyle that leads to criminal activities becomes the typical way of life for the modern day child. At first, these activities have minimal repercussions, but as time progresses and the younger generation advances, so do the crimes committed. Various types of programs are available to try and deter crime amongst juveniles. Some of these programs are available upon request while others are imposed as a result of unruly behavior. The task for the courts lies in determining whether or not these programs have an effect on deterrence or, whether or not rehabilitative programs are as effective as they need to be in comparison to serious crimes committed by juveniles.
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The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled out the execution of juvenile offenders who are tried in a criminal court. The case of Roper v. Simmons., 543 U.S. 551 (2005) was the landmark case that brought about this decision and determined that it was unconstitutional to put individuals who committed crimes as juveniles (or for those who commit crimes as juveniles) to death. Research provided by scientists gave the U. S. Supreme Court the information necessary to conclude that most, if not all, juveniles have the ability to change their behavior and lead a life without the use of crime. The studies that have been performed to determine if individuals under the age of 18 were capable of fully understanding the capacity of the crimes they committed. These studies revealed that juveniles lack the ability to analyze the severity of their actions along with the criminal punishments they could face for committing these crimes. Therefore, society should understand that the level of comprehension for most juveniles is different than that of his or her peers. A particular problem or situation that may seem rationale to one particular juvenile may not be as rationale to another juvenile of or around the same age. As people mature into adulthood, intelligence gathered through experience or education provides for a more reasonable comprehension of the world and the laws put in place to keep structure. With this scientific fact, it would be unreasonable to try and determine which juveniles have true malicious intent versus those who just made a horrible mistake because of underlying circumstances. Nevertheless, from a scientific perspective, people are to believe that juveniles are immature and lack the ability to make choices in which adults are capable of due to immature brain functioning.
As stated previously, the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed and ruled that this practice will no longer be allowed within the United States of America. With almost a split decision, the majority of the justices gave their reasons for the conclusion on this particular topic, and it was determined, "From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failing of a minor with those of an adult, for greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed" (Bradley, 2006). As young adults, juveniles may or may not be subject to make life changing decisions. Many juveniles are at the point in life when a lot of the choices they make effect how they will spend the rest of their lives. Teen pregnancies, peer pressure, and graduating are all realities of most modern-day juveniles. Juveniles who may come from single parent homes, families living in low income housing, broken families, are all faced with life changing situations daily. Living in a low income home a juvenile may be expected to divert from going to school and take on employment in order to assist with provisions for his or her family. Dealing with this type of responsibility at such a young age can deter a young adult from acting within the realms of adolescence. Although a juvenile may maintain enough responsibility to live a semi-adult lifestyle, as a child under the age of 18, he or she has very limited experiences in dealing with most adult realities, such as buying a home, investing in stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, enlisting in the military, etc. and this is all because they are not of a legal age to do so. This is one of the reasons why the death penalty for juveniles was reconsidered as unconstitutional.
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When a young adult is faced with committing heinous crimes there are usually factors of persuasion involved. Take for instance the incident of the D.C. Sniper's. This case involved the influence of an adult named, John Allen Muhammad, on a then 17 year old, John Lee Malvo. Through the persuasive beliefs of Muhammad, Malvo believed that what he and his accomplice were doing was okay. An article in the USA Today expressed this type of adult-child criminal activity stating, "When police catch a kid with an adult, it is rarely the kid who is the bad guyâ€¦the typical juvenile murderer in this kind of case, is led astray by a domineering adult" (Mauro, 2002). There have been other cases similar to this particular case in which an adult figure has persuaded a younger individual to assist with committing a crime. Juveniles in situations like these can have a myriad of reasons for choosing destructive paths: abusive parents, lack of any type of parental guidance, or lack of education to name a few.
Not all juveniles who are subject to committing serious crimes do so just because they believe they can. Juveniles are very impressionable beings at the tender teenage years. Finally being able to seek employment or even obtain a driver's license is a big step in the lives of most juveniles. Looking up to a certain individual for any particular reason is very common during this age as well. The attention that a teenager can obtain from being popular or from not being so popular makes all the difference in the adolescent phase in life. Acceptance in some form or fashion can be viewed as more important than graduating high for some young adults. Thus, it becomes fairly easy to be persuaded to do or say things out of the ordinary.
In light of the widely discussed case of Roper v. Simmons., 543 U.S. 551 (2005), in which then 17 year old Christopher Simmons, burglarized, abducted, and murdered Shirley Cook, Alabama Attorney General Troy King stated, "that for murder victims' sake, he was deeply disappointed in the rulingâ€¦ he said it 'failed to recognize that the removal of this deterrent from prosecutorsâ€¦ will likely lead to more tragedy, more brutality and more victims'" (Biskupic, 2005). Setting a precedent may not be the most ethical choice when it comes to juvenile execution because of the immoral stance that it places on our country. On the one hand, the United States was the only country in the world to still permit this type of execution (Bradley, 2006). On the other hand, the majority will continue to contend that "juveniles cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders because of their immaturity and susceptibility to peer pressure" (Biskupic, 2005).
So then, how will society refute the growing problem of juvenile crime in the world today? The role that a parent plays in their child or children's lives is a very vital role during adolescent years. Peer pressure has grown to an overwhelming reality when it comes to preteens and teenagers. Technology makes it so easily accessible to stalk someone without leaving a trace. Cyber bullying has become a reality in a lot of homes and some parents fail to realize that it is happening right under their noses until it is too late. For even the most "computer illiterate" person, the use of a computer and the internet to create websites and blogs to demean people by providing information, that may or may not be true, is all too easy to accomplish. Sadly enough, this is the life of the average juvenile and it is nearly impossible to prevent them from coming into contact with these temptations.
The media is another form of peer pressure that most parents neglect to realize and allow it into their homes. Various television shows depict criminals committing crimes that may seem to be intriguing to juveniles who are always willing to try something new. Also, the television programs which cast characters who are intentionally mean to different groups of children in school are a part of the reality that a lot of juveniles face in today's society. The media makes these individuals seem like heroes when in fact they are the very perpetrators who end up committing crimes against other juveniles for lack of acceptance into their culture. Video games have taken their toll on numerous juveniles, but yet and still parents lack the ability to take a stand and refuse to allow these "things" to interrupt their household.
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Society and law enforcement have placed such a burden on parents today that no one wants to cross that line and become the offender when they are really the victim in the situation. A good example of this takes place when a parent publicly disciplines a child. Many states have made it illegal for a parent, within their own right; to spank their child in a public place for fear that the child is in some type of danger. It appears that as a result of the absence of order within the home, many parents are failing to find other methods in which to raise their children. This lack of parental guidance and stability has given way to more negative influences from society and has allowed them to take root.
Teachers are faced with dealing with juveniles who are allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and as soon as these educators try and take action, the parent lashes out at the teacher instead of figuring out what they can do in order to gain a sense of control over their children. By the time a person reaches teenage years, most of their moral beliefs have begun to formulate. Of course the chance of altering these beliefs may come after some time and experience, but for the most part some level of understanding on what is right and wrong exists. All of these factors must be considered when a decision to allow juveniles to be excused from committing heinous crimes is made. Surely the basic factors need to be considered as well, such as the age of an offender and past criminal history, however a person's age should not be the determining factor when deciding to take a life or not. Each aspect of a crime committed by a juvenile should be reviewed in order to really make that determination of whether or not they will be capable of some sort of rehabilitation. A juvenile who premeditates his or her crime before acting on it should spend more time incarcerated than one who acted spontaneously.
Since the 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons., 543 U.S. 551 (2005), crimes committed by juveniles seem to have remained at a constant for most offenses with little to no increase. After the decision, many believed that there would be an increase in juvenile offenses because of the termination of the death sentence for juveniles. Since the death penalty was no longer an option for serious crimes committed by juveniles, then what was keeping them from using this new policy to their advantage? According to the below chart of statistical data taken from the National Center for Juvenile Justice (October, 2009) out of 100,000 juvenile offenses reported, there seems to be little change in the criminal activity of juvenile offenders in some of the more major crimes.
Murder, which is the most serious crime out of the five that are shown, has remained at an almost constant since the year 2004. Although vandalism seems to be the most popular crime committed by juveniles according to this data, there has been a significant decrease since 2006 for vandalism offenses. Therefore, since the decision to strike down the juvenile death penalty many crimes committed by juveniles have decreased. This could be linked to the decision of several states to utilize the life without parole sentencing for juvenile offenders, now that the death penalty is no longer in effect. There are many individuals within the criminal justice system who believe that life without parole may be a harsh sentence as well. The belief stems from fact that a juvenile coming into the criminal justice system may only be at the age of twelve at the time the crime is committed. A twelve year old offender who will never be granted the opportunity of a second chance seems heartless in the light of the American judicial system for some believers.
Over the past few years, the courts have heard arguments on whether or not it is acceptable to sentence juvenile offenders to life without parole versus the death penalty. Two Florida cases from 2009 were brought to the court to review the issue of age determination in relation to the type of crime committed by juvenile offenders. Should the age of the juvenile make a difference on whether or not life without parole will be considered, is the question that was placed before the court. The first case, Graham v. Florida, involves Terrance Jamar Graham, who was 16 years old at the time of his crime. He plead guilty to burglary and armed robbery in which he received a year in county jail and three years' probation (Hudson, 2009). However, the following year he was found in violation of his probation and a judge sentenced him to life in prison stating (Hudson, 2009):
Given your escalating pattern of criminal conduct, it is apparent to the court that you have decided that this is the way you are going to live your life and that the only thing I can do now is to try to protect the community from your actions (p. 16)
Over time and with more experience in and out of the criminal justice system, a juvenile offender will probably be more likely to revert back to criminal activity because of the fact that they have gained exposure to other criminals. When a juvenile is placed in the criminal justice system regardless of their age, it is imperative for those in authority over those individuals to encourage programs and behaviors which will be beneficial to those juveniles once released.
The second case of Sullivan v. Florida, involves Joe Harris Sullivan who at the age of 13 sexually battered an elderly woman and was sentenced to life without parole (Hudson, 2009). Joe Harris Sullivan received his sentence of life without parole straightaway, unlike the case of Graham v. Florida. There was no additional crime committed in order for him to receive his sentence of life without parole. From the examples above, it may be assumed that the consideration of life without parole is dependent on the one granting sentencing. What one judge deems justifiable for one individual may not necessarily be the same for another. In the case of the 13 year old and the elderly woman, a developing pattern for a future of sexually abusive behavior may have been evident. In order to take advantage of someone who is significantly incapable of matching your physical strength, there has to be some sort of underlying mental instability for such actions. In spite of the judge's decision to place the harsher sentence on the younger offender, the decision was probably the best to make in regards to the crime that was committed. Nevertheless, these two individuals may spend the rest of their lives incarcerated because of crimes committed as juveniles.
Is it possible for this particular sentencing choice to be more beneficial than execution? While on death row, a person may have the opportunity to appeal for a lighter sentence. A judge could overturn a decision in the case that causes for a person to be released. DNA testing can come back and clear a person from any involvement in a crime while sitting on death row. However, not all execution sentences take years to fulfill. An individual can be sentenced to death and be executed shortly thereafter with no opportunity to prove their innocence. An individual given a sentence of life without parole will never have the opportunity to seek an appeal for their crime. They will never have the opportunity to sit before a parole board and plead for a second chance. Some people feel that a sentence of life without parole is just the same as being sentenced to death. Having to spend your entire life in prison without ever being able to appeal for parole can be viewed as devastating. Juvenile residents in states that still permit life without parole are at more risk for receiving this sentence because of the exclusion of the death penalty as a result of committing a serious crime. Not only is a person faced with the crime they committed constantly, they have to adapt to a life of extreme violence and hardship within the prison system at a very young age.
The longer a juvenile offender remains within the criminal justice system the more time they will have to adapt and incorporate that lifestyle into their sense of norm. As individuals involved in the criminal justice system take a more active role in the lives of juvenile offenders, offenses seen in criminal court may begin to decrease as a result. Before a juvenile is referred to an adult court all possible resources should be exhausted in order to ensure that the juvenile was able to seek the necessary assistance available for rehabilitation purposes. The military has a "lowest level possible" motto that encourages leaders to try and handle certain issues at the lowest level possible in the chain of command. The criminal justice system can utilize this same thought process when it comes to juveniles and crimes. Instead of immediately deeming a juvenile as a lost cause, leaders within the juvenile justice system can use the resources available to them in assisting troubled youth before casting them to the side to become career criminals.
When the death penalty was a sentencing option, in order to be sentenced to death a juvenile had to be referred through the juvenile justice system. Juveniles are transferred to adult court on a referral basis. There are several opposing views on the process today. Many people feel that some courts refer juveniles on a whim because of the content of the crime. More often than not, a juvenile may be referred because he or she is closer to the age of 18 in comparison to another juvenile offender who may be much younger. According to a study on Illinois & New York, state legislation in reference to the referrals of juveniles to adult court, found that, "The costs, both financial and social of mandatory transfer far outstrip whatever potential benefits there are (Urbina & White, 2009). When juveniles are tried in adult courts, are the courts taking into consideration the existing problem of our prison system like that of overcrowding? A vast amount of money is placed into the process of juvenile transfer. Another three meals a day will have to be provided, another prison cell will need to be made available, another prison wardrobe will need to be supplied, etc. There are a lot of funds necessary to maintain the nation's prison systems, so provisions to decrease population should take place at every given opportunity.
This study on juvenile waivers also determined "that transferred juveniles were often handled more leniently in criminal court than they would have been in juvenile court" (Urbina & White, 2009). Even if this were the case for most juvenile offenders, it would depend on the type of crime that was committed and how the judge determined who or what should be viewed as deserving leniency. For example, a juvenile who is found guilty for the murder of an abusive guardian should receive a more lenient sentence than would a juvenile who commits the same crime as a repeat offender. Of course, first offenses regardless of the criminal nature should be considered at the lowest level because the offender has no prior criminal record on file. However, a judge who is having a bad day may want to use a juvenile as an example and grant a harsher sentence to prove a point. This practice may not be common, but it can become likely given the situation.
The effects these waivers have on younger offenders in the future are cause for concern within the judicial system. The concern lies in determining whether or not deterrence is a result of these waivers. Once other juveniles realize that there is that possibility for them to be tried in adult court, does it have any effect on the crimes that are committed in that area? Due to the fact that youth offenders are often highly respected by their peers for committing criminal acts, the normal stigma for committing crimes is not evident. After a youth offender is released back into society their reputation has preceded them. Just as an adult offender faces problems with reintegration back into normal society, the same experience occurs for juvenile offenders. On one hand, juvenile offenders may become victims of bullying after returning to their communities. Or on the other hand, the demands of such popularity may cause juvenile offenders to become preoccupied with their new found fame.
Youth who are around the same age as juvenile offenders may view the criminal life as interesting. This false perception will only cause for more juvenile offenders and unfortunately more innocent victims. After experiencing the prison life and doing everything necessary to survive in such an environment, juveniles are probably more likely to adapt to an even more violent lifestyle because of the need to return to a familiar place. As a juvenile develops personal relationships within the prison system a sense of acceptance is formulated. After a juvenile is released from this environment, they may lack the ability to separate the prison life from the real world making it very difficult to rehabilitate.
Regardless of the seriousness of the crime committed, some feel a sense of devastation about the transfer of juveniles into criminal court. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi (Pribek, 2003) suggested her reservations on approving referrals to adult court stating:
You see kids sometimes wanting to stipulate to waiver into adult court because they think it's the adult thing to do. It means they're adults making their own decisions. But I won't do it unless I know they're making a knowing, voluntary choice and it's in line with the waiver criteria (pNA)
In the above opinion, it is evident that many juveniles take no consideration about the cause and effect of having an adult criminal record on file. Again, as previously mentioned, research has determined that a juvenile lacks a certain amount of maturity. Therefore, when it comes to requesting a waiver to an adult court, those working within the juvenile justice system have a responsibility to ensure an offender is clearly aware of the circumstances. Although juveniles should be held to the highest esteem possible for committing any crime, especially those serious crimes, the rights given to all citizens under the constitution still apply.
As seen in the majority opinion on juvenile executions, this is but another example of why it was determined that juveniles lack the ability to think rationally and make adult decisions effectively. If young adults are so easily influenced by their peers, then how much more of an influence do individuals working within the juvenile justice system have on juveniles? Juvenile offenders expect the same consideration and counsel available to adult offenders once placed in the juvenile correctional facilities. Therefore it must be an effort on both parties: those responsible for ensuring the juveniles rights are understood clearly, and the judge hearing the case, thus ensuring that no individual will end up facing adult prison time because of misguided advice. Since the courts have determined that a juvenile lacks the ability to think on the same levels as an adult when it comes to committing crime, then there should be strict guidelines that are followed when considering the transfer of a juvenile to adult court for prosecution. Juvenile probation officers and program facilitators in charge of programs such as boot camp, all have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of juvenile offenders who show the ability to improve their behavior.
Modern civilization thrives on rapid efficiency and developing juveniles become left behind because of the need to place them into a quick fix category. Through interaction with juveniles personnel within the juvenile justice system may be able to prevent further deviance. One way to approach this may be through spending the necessary time listening to a juvenile offender and gaining the opportunity to understand their perspective. In the same manner, things learned while interacting with juvenile offenders may lead to the discovery of a very problematic individual. Preventing a troubled individual from re-entering the community may alleviate repeat offenders.
Contrary to popular belief, the practice of trying juveniles within the adult court system is rare. According to research there has been little proof that this practice has an effect on juveniles who commit crimes. It is believed that, "juveniles who are incarcerated are more likely to re-offend when released than those placed on probation" (Brandt, 2006). Once juvenile offenders are exposed to such hardships within the prison system it is possible that this same mentality is deemed necessary for survival once re-entering society again. Unless juvenile offenders enter available rehabilitative programs there is probably little hope for any positive change. As juvenile offenders are placed into adult environments they are viewed within the prison system as any other convicted offender. If they fail to carry themselves in a manner conducive to prison lifestyle they may suffer abuse or even sexual assault.
Human nature permits a reasonable person to assume, that a juvenile who is transferred to a criminal court is experiencing their very first time in the "real world" of criminal justice. This is solely attributable to the fact that juveniles are under the age of 18. Therefore, regardless of the crime committed, the discretion of many judges would probably weigh more on the side of leniency. However, this is not always the case. Some judges feel that it is imperative to take into consideration not only the age of a juvenile offender but also the type of crime that was committed. After evaluating these factors, some offenders may find themselves at even more of a disadvantage.
Take for instance a juvenile offender with a very active criminal past. Although the offender's history of crime may contain one or two major offenses and the rest minor offenses, a judge may deem this offender as a threat to society as a result of their latest offense of shoplifting. A juvenile offender may not believe that this particular crime warrants a harsh sentence, but if a judge finds a criminal past, it may appear as if the offender has no desire to shift from criminal behavior. Nonetheless, after the Roper v. Simmons., 543 U.S. 551 (2005) decision, juveniles no longer have to fear death as a sentencing option, regardless of the severity of the crime.
Modern day adolescents are faced with many more obstacles than those brought up in the 1960's, 1970's and maybe even the 1980's. The United States of America was faced with and is currently fighting a war. People are more comfortable with sharing their personal interpretations of what the founding fathers had in mind when drafting the constitution. Whether it is freedom of speech that crosses constitutional barriers, or through radical religious beliefs i.e. bombing abortion clinics, liberal thinkers have a great effect on the minds of rebellious young adults. So much has changed in the world today. Reality shows plague the minds of young adults today and it may be difficult for some to determine where the "reality" begins and the "show" ends. With that said, what actions need to be taken in order to reach these often misguided juveniles?
Many approaches to assist troubled youth have resulted in failed attempts to deter offenders and guide them toward a crime free path. However, new approaches are formulating and supporters of these programs believe that these methods will prove beneficial to deterrence and the decrease of juvenile crimes. An article discussing restoration of juveniles within the prison system feels that it is necessary to try and find ways to keep juveniles not only from death, but from receiving life sentences. Author's Larry Brendtro and Martin Mitchell (2007) expressed these thoughts when faced with troubled youth:
As colleagues at Starr Commonwealth across many years, we have seen thousands of young persons [sic] transform their very troubled lives. But to reclaim our most challenging youth takes properly trained staff and the support of concerned persons in the communityâ€¦ adults who feel youth are beyond hope create self-fulfilling prophecies because young people look to elders for profit of their own youth (p. 24)
Restorative justice is another practice used in fighting the rise of juvenile crime. Restorative justices "seek to protect the community by achieving real behavior change through building competencies, engaging the community and juvenile offenders in the process" (Hines, 2008). The restorative justice process tries to help all parties involved in a crime to come together in an effort to find some sort of common ground. Maybe the offender had limited or no knowledge of the victim. Perhaps the offender failed to realize that crimes they committed affected not only the victim and his or her family, but had effects on the community as well. This system allows an outlook into the offender's life and background. A victim or community may not view an offender any less guilty of crimes they committed, but this at least gives both the victim and the community insight as to why circumstances ended up this way.
An interesting and different approach to combating juvenile crime suggests researchers develop better "good studies" (Petrosino, 2000). A need to conduct studies that "answers the initial question as rigorously as possible" is how pediatrician Dr. Anthony J. Petrosino feels the problem with juvenile crime needs to be addressed (2000). He expressed the need for extensive review of existing research in order to contribute more effectively to the solution of societies continuing problem with juvenile crimes (Petrosino, 2000). Over time a person with experience within the justice system can begin to see a pattern with young offenders. A child growing up in the "system" or as a ward of the state, never having the opportunity to experience a stable life, is twice as likely to commit a crime than a child in a two parent home.
As children are tossed from one home to another, they begin to behave negatively in order to gain attention. Once that child reaches adolescence it becomes harder for adults to restore their thought process. After a certain age has been reached, the feeling of unworthiness and very low self esteem have become implanted in the minds of youth who fall into such categories; the drive to succeed no longer exists. Therefore, by researching the core causes of criminal action at an early age, individuals may find answers as to why juvenile offenders commit serious crimes.
For many researchers, depending on the type of study being performed gathering information can become more difficult as time progresses. Juvenile crimes usually begin at a young age and evolve into more serious crimes as juveniles are placed in and out of the criminal justice system. Most studies on juveniles follow them into adulthood or at least up until the age of 18. Over the course of time, information can become lost in the system or a juvenile may end up being charged as an adult. At this point it may be difficult for researchers to evaluate subjects as juveniles because they have been exposed to a completely different level of understanding. Once researchers develop a means to meticulously study brain development, social interaction, family development, etc. and other important aspects attributable to early detection of childhood criminal characteristics, then there may be a way to deter potential juvenile offenders.
Another approach to the evolving problem of juvenile delinquency can be found in religious practices. The effects of prison ministries, "faith in God (or a higher being), and faith based programs appear to contribute to a significant reduction in felonies and other illicit high-risk behaviors by (and against) juveniles" (Dilulio, 2010). Stereotypical beliefs frequently depict offenders turning toward religious practice once faced with serving time for committing crimes. Any form of incarceration gives a person time to reflect on his or her chosen path of life. It is common place for juveniles to see hope in people who teach forgiveness, second chances, and even reformation through faith. There have also been records of judges remanding offenders to participate in religion based programs as a part of their probation requirement. Regardless of an individual's religious state of mind, juvenile offenders have an opportunity to rebuild their image by participating in programs offered within the community.
Most church organizations welcome youth have been labeled as troubled or hopeless. Such organizations are geared toward implying the characteristics needed to succeed in less fortunate societies. Scholarship plans, mentoring opportunities, and various other programs are offered through rehabilitative religious projects. Religious practices usually offer a sense of peace and if juvenile offenders are sensitive to this type of assistance they can find an alternative means to continuing a life of crime.
Society may suggest that there are many ways in which a person can determine whether or not a child has a future becoming a juvenile offender. They look at how a person is raised, their education level, their childhood lifestyle, family income, etc. However even with this knowledge what role does society play? Authors Kerry Dunn and Paul J. Kaplan completed an empirical on an individual named Daniel Farnsworth, in which they gathered data from his past up until he was sentenced to death (2009). Every aspect of the subject's life suggested that there may have been concern for criminal behavior, however it was proven that the various resources utilized to correct Daniels' behavior was ineffective. As statistics show, Daniel was moved throughout foster care systems numerous times as a child well into his adolescent years. He lacked the proper educational skills children in his age group were expected to maintain. Typically speaking, he fit the profile for a person who was on their way to a life of crime. When Daniel finally reaches the juvenile justice system it appears as if the damage is already done, yet and still there has been no improvement to rehabilitate him. Unfortunately, Daniel finally commits a serious crime of double-homicide (Dunn & Kaplan, 2009).
For most juveniles within the criminal justice system, the story of Daniel Farnsworth is a familiar one. For the most part, crimes committed by juveniles appear to stem from deep rooted personal issues that were either overlooked or outright ignored. Cases like these are all too familiar when researching juvenile crimes. With all the rehabilitative programs offered to youth before and after coming in contact with the juvenile justice system, there still seems to be a disconnect in the effectiveness the programs have on these individuals. Officers within the juvenile justice system often report that they are over worked and under paid, as with most personnel working in the criminal justice system. While this may be true, a personal interest in the improvement of juvenile behavior post-criminal justice system needs to be taken. All individuals involved in the juvenile justice process have the opportunity to make a positive impact in as many lives as possible.
As a result of the prohibition of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, there has to be an alternative punishment. Our country was founded on the ability to provide justice to all regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religious preference, etc. Juveniles who commit serious crimes must be held responsible for their actions. Victims of their crimes and the families who are left behind to mourn are all deserving of the justice that is desired after losing a loved one, or after suffering at the expense of a crime. The U. S. Supreme Court made their decision based on thorough research and with the belief that our criminal justice system would do all that is possible to deter juvenile offenses. Rehabilitative programs are available in most all states as a step toward encouraging young adults to strive for success and to choose crime free lives. The act of referring juvenile offenders to the adult criminal court system contributes to ongoing problems within our nation's prison system-overcrowding, violence, sexual assaults, etc. Should we turn a blind eye to juvenile offenses and hope that with time and maturity they will adjust into society as "normal" young adults, no. This will only cause for the existing problem to worsen. As a society we must offer our services in every aspect available to us as adults, parents, teachers, and law enforcement agencies. When communities are given the opportunity to interact with law enforcement officers on a non-criminal related manner, their perspectives on crime and the criminal justice system may take on a new reality. Henry Ford said it best when he stated, "Don't find fault, find a remedy" (Ford).
Bilchik, S. (2003). Sentencing juveniles to adult facilities faills youths and society. Corrections Today , 65 (2), 21.
Biskupic, J. (2005, March 02). Court unlikely to make more historic moves. USA Today , p. 04a.
Bradley, C. (2006, March-April N/A). The right decision on the juvenile death penalty. Judicature , 89 (5), p. 302.
Brandt, D. E. (2006). Delinquency, development, and social policy. Current perspectives in psychology , 78-81.
Brendtro, L., & Mitchell, M. (2007). To restore or discard: Kids locked away for life. Reclaiming Children and Youth , 16 (2), pp. 24-25.
Dilulio, J. J. (2010). More religion, less Juvenile crime: the case for faith, not prison, to prevent youth crime. Sojourners Magazine , 39 (2), 12.
Duncan, K., & Makar, S. (2010). Does sentencing a 13-year-old offender to life without parole constitute "cruel and unusual punishment"? Supreme Court Debates, A Pro & ConÂ® Monthly , Congressional Digest Corp , 13 (1), 26-36.
Dunn, K., & Kaplan, P. J. (2009, June). The Ironies of Helping: Social interventions and executable subjects. Law & Society Review , 43 (2), p. 337.
Ford, H. (n.d.). Retrieved 02 19, 2011, from Brainyquote.com: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_leadership.html
Hines, D. J. (2008). Restoring juvenile justice. GP Solo , 25 (3), 22.
Hudson, D. L. (2009). Adilt time for adult crimes. ABA Journal , 95 (1), 16-17.