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We have exposed juveniles to the strict discipline of the adult criminal justice system, locked them up with adult murders and child pedophiles. A juvenile has several ways of dealing with these dangerous and at times deadly predators. The youth would comply with would be abusers, in order to live, while another juvenile commits suicide. Transfers for any reason by any means do not work and needs to be banned. What is it that we are supposed to accomplish surely not, to turn our young male juveniles into the Tonya's "Tony's turned into Tonya's"? (National Catholic Reporter, 2004)?
Reviewing the history of how juveniles is treated in America In the eighteenth century, under English common law children were treated as chattel, there was no juvenile justice, kids and adults were tried and sentenced the same. Any child seven years and older was accountable for their criminal actions. This attitude was eventually challenged. Society saw that trying, and sentencing juveniles as adults' places the juvenile at risk emotionally and danger of physical, and sexual assault. There are scientific studies to show treating youth as an adult is harmful; our ancestors finally figured this out, which explains the birth of the juvenile justice system in the late 18th century.
Society had come to the realization that children brains developed differently than adults had a higher chance for rehabilitation, the decision to separate the juvenile delinquents from the adult justice system. Children would no longer share a common area with adult inmates, and languish for juvenile crimes changed. The focus being how to help this juvenile; not the crime the concept was good. However, there were problems in the court process children did not have the same protections of the U.S. Constitution as adults. Children detained without cause for an unspecific amount of time because the juvenile judge had total discretion.
Parens Patriae and Loco Parentis gives the juvenile courts the right to intervene in every household in the United States if they have evidence of abuse, neglect or anything that could be harmful to a minor child. "Parens Patriae means the parent of the country and Loco Parentis translation is in place of the parent" (Taylor & Fritsch, 2011). Several landmark cases challenged the due process in Juvenile Justice System, the first case Kent v. United States Morris A. Kent Jr.16-years of age charged with burglaries, Kent, was tried as an adult found guilty and was sentenced to 30 to 90 years in prison. The issue was no one was notified " The Supreme Court considered whether the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause entitled Kent to a hearing prior to the juvenile court's wavier" (Ritter, 2010) in the juvenile system.
Second case which affected the way juveniles cases was conducted is In re Gault The U.S. Supreme Court granted some due process citing it did not matter what the institution was called for the juvenile it is an institution of confinement juveniles now have the right to reasonable notice of charges, to have counsel, confront witnesses and against self-incrimination. Juveniles' court proceedings ended the same way the child incarcerated.
The third case IN RE WINSHIP, 397 U.S. 358 (1970), It addressed what is needed to prove the juveniles guilt. Judges looked at the preponderance of the evidence to convict the juvenile after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in1970 the state must have the proof beyond reasonable doubt (Find Law, 1970).
The difference is preponderance of the evidence requires more than 50 percent that is more than half of the level of certainty, were as proof beyond reasonable doubt is closer to 95 percent certainty (Taylor & Fritsch, 2011).
In the past few years, the public's attitude towards juvenile crime and treatment of juveniles has changed; the public has lost faith in the juvenile justice system. How many times have you heard or read. The juvenile justice system failed. Rehabilitation does not work; there are gangs in my neighborhood, my neighbor's son was arrested for using drugs, did you see the news where two ten-year old boys kidnapped and killed a three-year-old child? Recently, an eleven-year-old boy blows his dad fiancé brains out. These are the headlines, worries, frustrations, and outcries of the voters. And our politicians, policy makers, prosecutors, and judges often make their decisions, leaning towards the cries of the public.
However, juveniles defendants who are not serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, eventually return to our communities, and show no signs of rehabilitation, nothing that says that this juveniles had been scared straight? One reasons the decision to get tougher on juvenile crime as a deterrent. The idea of adult time was to be such a shock in the horror of it that would make juveniles stop and think. at the same time, research studies show that there is a higher rate of recidivism with the juveniles which served time in adult jails and prisons.
How does a child of 11-years decide what best defense in a criminal case the law requires that an individual should be able to assist in their own defense? However, children are not able to assist in their defense, lack understanding in legal procedures. According to The 1997 MacArthur Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Study found that juveniles aged 11- 13 are three times as likely to be seriously impaired and juveniles aged 14-15 were twice as likely to be impaired than of young adults aged 18 to 24 on the evaluation of competence-relevant abilities. This makes little if any sense. How on one hand we tell our youth, you cannot buy cigarettes, sign a contract, and quit school because of their status, as children. Then turn right around and expect them to understand the legal process and to take part in their defense.
Based on these findings, states should consider implementing policies and practices designed to ensure that young defendants' rights to a fair trial are protected. In some jurisdictions, this may mean requiring competence evaluations for juveniles below a certain age before they can be transferred to criminal court. States that permit juveniles 13 and under to be tried as adults may wish to re-examine this policy in light of the substantial proportion of individuals of this age, which are at great risk for incompetence to stand trial. (ADJJ 1997).
Waiving juveniles to adult courts is not a new concept the purpose for this option reserved for violent juvenile offenders. Nevertheless, the majority of kids, which are transferred to adult court, are not representative of the kind of offender that the legislature created the waiver process for. "The purpose of waiving these offenders to the adult court was to expose them to the strict discipline of the adult criminal justice system. Currently, the majority of the juvenile offenders that are waived consist of the mostly nonviolent recidivists and first-time violent offenders"
Several studies show that more non-violent juveniles not only tried as adults but also serve life sentences without possibility for parole. Furthermore, a Florida study shows that youth sent into the adult system had 34% more felony arrests than those held in juvenile facilities. Nonviolent offenders comprised 66 percent of all juveniles waived to adult criminal court (Pytel, 2008). However, in 1996, more than half the Juvenile cases waived to criminal court were non-violent drug cases and or property offenses. The frustrations and fears of citizens across America have made adult prison dumping grounds for troubled juveniles.
Prior to any school shootings and Madalyn Murray O'Hair the woman who single handed stopped all prayers at public schools, before the government stepped into our private lives and told parents they could not raise their children, by the rod (corporal punishment). Our children recognize something greater than themselves. We allowed God / Prayer to be taken from our classrooms, and then we quietly allowed the government to tie our hands so that we cannot discipline our children. The outcome is a generation of juveniles that has no respect for authority, or the value of human life. We have replaced prayer with guns, knives, and metal detectors. Parents of parentless children, prisons are not substitute.
Following the Colorado school shootings in April 1999, the legislators' have emphasized measures requiring harsher punishment of juveniles. Not only have legislations passed laws that make it easier for children as young as 13. "Still, there is 12-year-old Jordan Brown, who is now the youngest American that will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole because he would get the mandatory sentence if found guilty (Momlogic, 2010).
Judge Dominick Motto stated that "Jordan Anthony Brown cannot be rehabilitated by his 21-birthday" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2010)., even though this child has never committed delinquent acts prior to this horrific crime, in response of an upswing in juvenile homicide and violent crime. Legislators have made it easier to transfer younger juveniles and added more offenses that could warrant a transfer. Legislators also gave more lead ways to prosecutors, taking the option from the juvenile judge.
Policy makers have expanded mandatory sentences for juveniles in federal court, and revised restriction for placing children with adults. Other changes have been made the way juveniles can be waived. Prosecutors are giving more authority to file some juvenile cases in either juvenile or criminal court as they choose. Several states have passed laws to exclude certain categories of juvenile offenders from juvenile court jurisdiction based either on age or on offense.
If the state cannot get the juvenile one way surely they will find another. There is always more than one way to skin the cat. Judicial waiver, statutory exclusion, and direct file are ways to transfer juveniles offenders another way to transfer juveniles to adult criminal court includes "presumptive waiver which shifts the burden of proof to the child defendant, to prove he or she is suited to juvenile rehabilitation" (OJJDP, 2011) .
This brings me to my next point studies, and research agrees that children are different as adults. Their brains do not work in the same way as adults. Children do not see the long lasting consequences of their actions, most live in the moment, add abuse will make children more prone to react more violently. At this day and age, it is a known fact that child abuse produce delinquency. Population dropped 25%. The decline was driven by the delinquency. The number of under-18 inmates held as juveniles, OJJDP (2006)
Between 1990 and 1999, the juveniles' under-18 jail population increased more than 300% while the adult jail population rose 48%. Between 1999 and 2004, the adult jail population increased 19%, while the under-18 jail population dropped 25%. The decline was driven by the reduction in the number of under-18 inmates held as juveniles, (OJJDP, 2006)
When we allow children sentenced to life sentences without parole, what is it that we are accomplishing, not rehabilitation because there is no chance of the child being released?
Society is disgusted when they hear the news of Priest, teachers or any other adult having sex with a child, most states have statutory rape laws in place. We frown upon parents who molest a child. We even fought legislators to change laws so that young sexual abuse victims can have the opportunity to bring an action against their abusers. We go as far as warn youth the dangers of online predators. According to studies by Vincent & Zeidenberg, 1980-1997 our prisons are filled with child sex abusers. Nevertheless, we quietly watch youth sent into the arms of these monsters a 1989 Vincent & Zeidenberg study who reported juveniles served in adult jails and prisons children reports of rape were five times greater for sexual attempts and more than ten times for rape. In addition, suicides among juveniles are 7.7 times higher. One in ten juveniles complains of physical violence by staff, and 50% of the juveniles report weapon involvement.
We can all agree that juveniles had a higher chance of physical and sexual assault in adult institutions. Recidivism rates are higher in juvenile that are tried and sentenced as adults, then the juvenile that remain under juvenile jurisdiction. We can also agree that juvenile crimes need to be addressed what can be done, there is evidence based programs deter juvenile crime, there are also prevention programs that work. These programs addressed the whole child dealing with the issues of the child's family life, community problems, and support. The issues these programs range from: blended sentencing for violent offenses. Youth Court which is a program which juvenile offenders are questioned, defended, and sentenced by their peers. Youth court provides a way for the community to get involved in helping troubled young people.
Intervention Programs, such as therapeutic group homes most of these programs have mental health staff on duty, and programs that strengthen families, which also promote prevention strategies. Studies show if we are able to intervene immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs helping to identify and control the small percentages of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders these community-based programs increase public safety. Community-based programs for youth are more cost-effective than incarceration. The best programs tend to be those that focus on family-centered interventions.
One of the problems with these evidence-based programs is a lack of funding. We find funding to lock away a 13-year-old child for the rest of his natural life. We find funding to pay the rising cost of tickets to sport playoffs . (USA Today, 2008), we pay anywhere from $6 to $12.00 a ticket for a two hour movie, but we cannot find funding to save our kids.
In conclusion, the threat of harsher punishment has not deterred juveniles for committing crimes. The law that allows juveniles to be tried and sentence as an adult should be revoked for several reasons. First, youth in adult prisons suffers emotional and physical harm, most importantly. Children do not have the mental or educational capacity to aid in their defense.
Although the original reason for having the option to waiver juveniles into adult court was to strengthen the punishment for the juvenile offenders that commit serious crimes such as murder rape and kidnapping. However, over the past few years, the waiver process has been used to try non-violent juveniles as adults. These children should have an opportunity to have a life.
Instead our Legislators have made it easier to transfer juveniles with mandatory sentences and prosecutorial waivers the majority of juveniles that are waived have committed property offenses. While researching this topic and being a parent, the question arose, how can we as adults expect our youth to have a greater appreciation and respect for life when most adults behave poorly? Repeatedly, I read in the newspapers how victims plead for help and adults around ignore their cries not wishing to involve themselves. Society at times shows lack of concern for their neighbor so in a sense we are part of the juvenile down fall.