Black Vs. Orange: Should Juveniles Be Tried As Adults?
There is a difference between an accident and a premeditated crime; one difference is that criminals must plan and foolproof by spending time deep within their dark thoughts while they somewhat perfect their act. Even crimes of passion take a connection between the hippocampus, the brain’s emotional control center associated with motivation, and the rest of the rational frontal lobe that allows for critical thinking.
While it is true that a child’s brain does not reach the full stage of development until the child is around the age of twenty-one, most children over the age of 10 can be expected to understand the basic difference between right and wrong. An understanding of that, it is safe to assume, includes the knowledge that killing another individual out of malice rather than self-defense is certainly a criminal action.
Should a young child of say twelve or thirteen commit a heinous crime, it seems that the state can appropriately convict the individual as a juvenile based on their young age, but can they really claim that the child didn’t know any better?
Psychologically speaking, no; they can’t.
Some children have developmental delays or abusive surroundings that have led to a skewed sense of morality or even personality disorders, but these cases are no different from those of the same type of adults that stand trial for crimes to which they plead insanity. Those adults are then given the appropriate treatment and rehabilitation that they so desperately need, and they are still required to carry out a sentence. The same should be said for juveniles. They should, of course, be treated for their issues, but they should also carry out the sentence required for murder. What makes a seventeen-and-a-half-year-old any less responsible for killing someone than if that same person was eighteen? The fact of the matter is that there is no drastic psychological, mental or physical change that occurs the moment a person turns eighteen, which is when he or she is held legally accountable for his or her actions.
That individual would have the exact same mental capacity and moral sense as the day when he or she becomes legally able to be tried as an adult, so he or she should absolutely be tried as such even if he or she is under the age of eighteen.
Adolescence is the point in people’s lives when they have been given the power to make decisions for themselves for the first time. This is the time when many people make big mistakes, but it is understandable. Think of it like this: For your whole life, you have been living your life by driving automatic. All of a sudden, someone takes your car, and hands you the keys to a manual. You are going to stall out a few times i.e., you are going to make some mistakes. The car with manual transmission is adulthood, and no one gets it the very first time.
Often, this is the point of our lives when we are most susceptible to influence. Our minds change like the minute hand on a clock. The notion that at this age we know exactly what we want to do and who we want to be for the rest of our lives is simply a myth. The reality is that adolescents, like the rest of us, make mistakes. Yet, the poor decisions that adolescents make are often a result of immaturity and a lack of proper guidance. People at this age are fundamentally not fully capable of making conscious, rational decisions, and their brains are not even completely developed yet.
It is for this reason that juveniles are treated differently than adults in the court of law. The goal of the juvenile court system is to reform and rehabilitate. On the contrary, the adult court system is intended to punish the offender. The juvenile court system offers alternative sentencing for adolescents who make poor decisions. This allows young offenders to redirect their chosen path in life. After all, it is around the teenage years when people are most vulnerable and susceptible to influence. That influence should be one of rehabilitation as opposed to being one of punishment. Too many young people develop negative attitudes, and a general disregard for the authority of the law. Punishing people at this age will only work to repel them from the law-abiding society.
It is true that certain crimes are serious, and should be taken under special consideration. In these cases, we must ask ourselves a question: Is it better to punish someone for what he or she did wrong, or to help him or her do right? Which is more effective?
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