Meting out justice to juveniles is complex, with brain science and a trio of U. Supreme Court rulings handed down since propelling the criminal-justice system into a more nuanced approach that recognizes young people are prone to immaturity and impetuosity, often fail to appreciate risks and consequences, and generally are considered less culpable at the time their crimes are committed. Over the years, King County has implemented a wide range of diversion and community-based programs to hold young offenders accountable outside the court system. Two decades ago, prosecutors filed 8, felony and misdemeanor cases against juveniles each year.
A child is not an adult.
Even if we ignore recent research that concludes human brain development continues well into our 20s, there is long-held support that teenage brains are developing throughout adolescence.
And yet, when a crime is committed — particularly a horrifically violent crime — district attorneys seem hell-bent on charging children as adults. Alex Hribal, the year-old knife-wielding student who attacked classmates and a security guard at a Pennsylvania high school last week, has been charged as an adult with four counts of attempted murder and 21 counts of aggravated assault.
But a year-old is not an adult, and pressing charges as an adult does not change this fact.
Calling a child an adult does not — in fact — transform the child into an adult. Sometimes this gets taken to extremes that most would find preposterous: If the concern is that juvenile courts are too lenient on violent offenders, then it would seem that juvenile courts need to change, but as this is probably a monumental task, prosecutors take the easy way out by - in effect - changing the definition of an adult.
A year-old should then be able to smoke, drink, defend his country, participate as a juror, vote, create contracts, live independently of parental control, sue and make a will. Would you like to stand trial before a jury of twelve year-olds? How about appear in court against a lawsuit filed by a 16 year-old?
It could be argued that the age that defines adulthood is somewhat arbitrary and that some leeway should be given to prosecutors to determine whether or not a child has matured to the extent required to be considered an adult.
If the goal is to ensure that a lengthy sentence be achieved, then why stop at charging Alex Hribal as an adult? Why not charge him as a black man? That ought to put him away for a long time. According to one study, black men serve jail sentences that are twenty percent longer than white men for the same crime.
But black is not white. Adults are not children. Two plus two does not equal five. Paul Heinz is a writer, musician, and former Wisconsinite who now lives in the Chicago area.Your source for local news, sports, high school sports and weather in and around Jefferson City, Columbia, Fulton and the Lake of the Ozarks.
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Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie By Wendy Sawyer Press Release February 27, On any given day, nearly 53, youth are held in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement. Teens Should Absolutely Be Tried as Adults When They Commit Adult Crimes again while their killer served only a short sentence before being released from jail?
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