Debate rages on whether or not juvenile offenders should be tried in adult courts for committing violent crimes. It is apparent that many young people are becoming criminals and commit adult crimes day in day out. Nonetheless, experts have warned that there exists a thin line between the nature of the crime and the criminal (Myers, 2005). To some, crime should fit punishment and juvenile offenders should be tried and sentenced equally as adults for committing violent crimes including murder and rape. In this paper, I tend to disagree with the notion that minors who commit violent crimes should be tried as adults. Instead, they should be treated as such, minors.
Should Minors who Commit Violent Crimes Should not be Tried as Adults? No
The issue of minor criminal offenders has been in contention. While some of the arguments tend to insinuate that ‘crime is a crime’, others are of the perspective that children or minors are immature and irresponsible and cannot be held accountable for some of the decisions they make (Myers, 2005). In fact, the Supreme Court in 2005 banned death penalty for minors (Scott, 2012). The Court gave the rationale that young offenders are actually, immature and vulnerable to influence of others. In addition, the court pointed out that young offenders can change over the course of their lives. Coupled with the pressure from Child Rights activists, the issue reflects a momentous debate across the world.
Minors who commit violent crimes should not be treated as adults owing to the fact that prisons are too violent for children. While we recognize that teens who engage in crime can change and are undergoing developmental changes, putting them in prisons could be destructive to their development and growth. According to Myers (2005), young offenders who get lengthy sentences in maximum prisons tend to become ‘hardened criminals’. Scott (2012) says that over 53 percent of young offenders serving lengthy prison terms end up becoming recidivists. This number is significantly higher than that of adults who serve the same length of prison stay. As such, treating minors as adults is destructive to the child and may predispose the society to higher crime rates in the long term.
It is important to mention that incarceration of minors who commit violent crimes is not the main goal of changing the behavior of the minors (Myers, 2005). To the contrary, providing the young offenders with an opportunity whereby they can change their ways is the only way to change them. In fact, the main role of criminal justice system is to rehabilitate the offenders in an effort to change their behaviors (Myers, 2005). In contrast, prisons reflect the opposite of the main goal of the system. Given the fact that majority of minors are susceptible to negative influences, they may begin copying the behavior of the fellow criminals and the objectives of rehabilitation then become elusive.
Further, Scott (2012) argues that children learn behavior through the process of socialization. Socialization agents such as the family, peers, media and school are instrumental in inculcating values and beliefs into the children. This implies that an increase in child offenders reflects the nature of socialization that the current generation of minors gets. According to studies, many child offenders come from broken homes, were abused or they never even experienced proper socialization (Myers, 2005). Is it their fault that they make wrong decisions? It is therefore important to support children in juvenile prisons as a way of re-socializing them and addressing embedded social problems in our society.
In essence, the debate surrounding the issue of treating children who commit violent crimes as adults is fierce and critical. Children who commit violent crimes should not be tried as adults for various reasons. In particular, prisons are too violent for children and may have a destructive effect on the child. Besides, it is important to address the underlying issues that may predispose children towards violent crimes instead of destroying the social fabric.