10 Reasons Why Juveniles Should Not Be Tried or Sentenced as Adults by Barbe Stamps with special assistance from David Berger


Monday, 31 October 2011

10 Reasons Why Juveniles Should Not Be Tried or Sentenced as Adults by Barbe Stamps with special assistance from David Berger

1It  is wrong to hold children and adolescents who have not reached legal  age to adult standards.  In other areas of law we recognize the  differences between children and adults.  Children are not permitted the  same rights and responsibilities as adults (e.g. voting, smoking,  joining the military) because we recognize their inability to make adult  decisions. Why don’t we recognize the same difference in the criminal  law?  We don’t say, “this is a very important election, so let’s let the kids vote“.  We don’t say, “this is a very important war so let’s give our children weapons  and send them to fight“.  So why do we say “this case is different and this kid deserves to be treated as an adult and locked away in a prison“?
2.  Recent research demonstrates  that transferring children from juvenile court to adult court does not  decrease recidivism, and in fact actually increases crime. Children are  uniquely positioned for reform and redemption.  Juvenile detention  facilities (generally) have the programs in place to aid in that process  of reformation.  Prisons do not.
3.  With appropriate treatment most children who commit crimes, even the most violent crimes, can be rehabilitated and  become responsible adults.  Precisely because their brains are still  changing.  The prefrontal cortex – which regulates aggression, long  range planning, mental flexibility, abstract thinking, and perhaps moral  judgment (See Bower Study)  has not yet developed in children.  The amygdala, the center of  impulsive and aggressive behavior is the center piece of the child brain  and is left unchecked by the under developed prefrontal cortex.
4.  Psychological research confirms what  every parent knows: children, including teenagers, act more  irrationally and immaturely than adults.  Studies further confirm that  stressful situations only heighten the risk that emotion, rather than  rational thought, will guide the choices children make.  The Supreme  Court recognized just this!  In Roper v. Simmons,  Justice Kennedy wrote:  “any parent knows” and “scientific and  sociological studies … tend to confirm “that children possess a “lack  of maturity” .. an underdeveloped sense of responsibility .. [and take]  impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.”
5.  Children in adult prisons  are 5 times as likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be  beaten by staff, 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon and  8 times as likely to commit suicide as children in juvenile facilities.
6.   Punishment is a failed a strategy for changing behavior, teaching new  skills, or developing new and more positive attitudes and beliefs. The  only justification for inflicting harsh punishment is to deliver  vengeance in accord with the old testament standard of an  eye-for-an-eye. We should be protecting, not taking out vengeance, on  our children.
7.  Contrary to popular belief, it is the child and  not his or her parent or guardian who must decide what to tell the  police and defense attorneys, whether or not to follow attorney  instructions, whether to testify, whether to give information to the  prosecution, and whether to go to trial or accept a plea bargain.   Although common sense would suggest that many children are simply too  young to undertake such weighty legal responsibilities, it israre for courts to  consider whether children lack the competence to stand trial because of  their age.  Every child offender should have a competency hearing  before trial.
8.   “Adult time for adult crime” may be a catchy phrase but it reflects a  poor understanding of criminal justice principles. If the punishment is  to fit the crime, both the nature of the offense and the culpability or  moral responsibility of the offender must be taken into account. As the  U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, the blameworthiness of children cannot be equated with that of adults, even when they commit the same crime.
9.   Youth tried in the adult criminal court face the same penalties as  adults including life without parole which for child offenders puts them  last in line to receive any classes or rehabilitation programs and  makes it very difficult to file for clemency for failure to prove any  sort of rehabilitation.
10.   Statistics show a plethora of impact issues have been fueled by blended  sentencing laws, including unintended consequences such as giving  prosecutors, rather than judges, the authority to decide when to charge a  juvenile as an adult. Policy analysts have begun questioning whether  states have gone too far in enacting legislation that makes it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults.
                               “Children who commit serious crimes still have the 
ability to change their lives for the better.  It is now
time  for state and federal officials to take positive steps by enacting  policies that seek to redeem children, instead  of throwing them in  prison for the rest of their lives.” 
                                                                               –  David Berger

PLEASE, read Paul Mones´s book, I mentioned here sometimes!


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