When should "children" be charged as adults?

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by LiveUninhibited, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. LiveUninhibited
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    Juvenile court - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    But, particularly for heinous crimes, there has been a movement to charge "children" under 18 as adults. What I find odd is those very same people often insist that those under 18 are incompetent to enter into contracts independently or give consent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_(law)

    I am wondering what the reasoning is for people to impose some of the basic responsibilities of adulthood on teens, but without also giving them the basic rights of adulthood (voting, consent, contracts without cosignature)? If a teen is competent to be held responsible for violating the law, then why are they denied participation in making the law or other rights of adulthood?

    While I believe minors should be able to enter into contracts, I do not believe it is useful to charge those same minors as adults for crimes. My rationale for treating minors differently legally is not based upon competency but rather that for all crimes, including egregious ones, minors are more likely to be rehabilitated than adults. So a second chance of sorts is more likely to be worthwhile.
     
  2. alan1
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    alan1 USMB Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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  3. SpidermanTuba
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    The problem is children can't properly be held to account when being charged as children in some states.

    For instance, someone who is 14 and murders should clearly do serious time, but its hardly fair to hold a 14 year old to the same level of account as an adult. But in some states - if charged as a child, the most time that child can do is 4 years - until they are 18. If they could be imprisoned for a longer period, a fair period, there would be no need to charge them as adults.
     
  4. LiveUninhibited
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    Are you sure that people charged under the juvenile system must be released when they're 18? I know they have to be transferred to a different facility. This can be problematic because while the juvenile system might be set up to attempt to rehabilitate troubled teens (at least in theory), the adult system tends to make criminals even worse upon release.
     
  5. RetiredGySgt
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    He is correct.
     
  6. LiveUninhibited
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    In that case, he would also be correct that there needs to be a middle-ground of some sort.
     
  7. jillian
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    Minors, to use a more exact term than 'children', are not charged with crimes in the juvenile system. They are charged with acts which if committed by an adult would be crimes.

    So, due to the disparity in charges, and the disparity in jurisdiction between juvenile and criminal courts, I'm not sure there *is* a middle ground.

    Also, there's a pretty big difference between juvenile facilities and prisons. Are you suggesting there should be a whole new prison system for "tweens"? Do such criminals exist in numbers warranting a change in either the system or the means of retention?
     
  8. LiveUninhibited
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    I didn't have a problem with the 14-year-old murderer being held til 18 because of a light sentence per se. If you're assuming that they are too young to be held responsible for their actions, the idea wouldn't be punishment but rather rehabilitation so you don't end up with a lifelong criminal who will ultimately cost society more. If you put them in regular prison that's what you'll most likely get. I'd support rehabilitation measures because the young are more likely to be rehabilitated. If possible, it would make sense to give them a chance to do so. I'm not into age-based laws but in this case, at least, I can't think of a much better alternative.

    I'd first change the rules of the existing juvenile system. For example, they could be held til 21 instead of 18. After all 18 years old isn't the age of full adulthood in America anyway as they can't even drink alcohol. I'd also make their release upon reaching this maximum age contingent upon their efforts to improve themselves and prepare for a life without crime including educating themselves via independent study, and paying restitution to victims or victims familiy via on or off-site work. Some work can be done from the internet these days, though that would need to be monitored.

    If they were a serious offender that would warrant a sentence past their 21st birthday, and they haven't made progress, then they're transferred to the adult system. If they live for some number of years (probably 5) outside of the facility without any criminal offending their record can be expunged.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  9. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    It has to be decided on a case by case basis, I think.

    Sometimes benchmarks are just not a good way to decide things.
     
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  10. catzmeow
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    Most juveniles who are charged as adults have extensive juvenile records and are suspects in serious, violent crimes. In fact, if you talked to prison officials in your state, they would likely tell you that young inmates (juveniles charged in these cases) pose many more safety problems for them than older inmates. And, not in regards to their own safety, but in regard to the safety of OTHER inmates.

    Personally, I don't support sentencing anyone under 18 as an adult, but create mid-level facilites where dangerous juveniles can serve up to age 24, and I WOULD support standardizing laws around voting, drinking age, etc. at 18.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2009

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