Juvenile Crime Resulting In Sentencing as an Adult

The United States tries and sentences juvenile as adults.
Children who commit criminal acts may be sentenced in adult courts in the United States. These sentences for property crimes and homicide are imposed on children as young as 14. Children are waived to adult court by a judge or prosecutor. Once sent to adult court, sentencing for all subsequent crimes will be in adult court.
The sentences have included the death penalty. Many of these children serve time in adult prisons. Chidren can be sentenced to life without parole. There is very little rehabilitation available to assist these young people to return to their communities. Race, ethnic, and economic factors are major determinants of which children receive sentences as an adult.

Children tried as adults

Juveniles can be subject to adult criminal trial and sentencing in every state. The procedures for exposing children to adult courts and prisons are transfer laws. The application of these laws has become more frequent and automatic.
States also are exposing juvenile to blended sentencing while under juvenile jurisdiction. America is one of few countries where there is a history of children subjected to execution. The execution of children was ruled unconstitutional only recently.

The Simmons case

At age 17, respondent Simmons and 15-year-old Benjamin planned and committed a capital murder. They abducted, bound, and threw a female victim into a river.
After Simmons had turned 18, he was sentenced to death. His direct appeal and subsequent petitions for state and federal post conviction relief were rejected.
The Supreme Court then held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. The Court reasoned that the rejection of the juvenile death penalty in the majority of states, the infrequent use of the punishment … and the consistent trend toward abolition …demonstrated a nation consensus against the practice. Roper v Simmons (03-633) 543 U.S. 551(2005) .
This sanction was applied primarily to the poor and racial minorities. This problem of racial and class issues continues to accent the transfer process.

Juvenile jail

The juvenile justice system has problems in every state. Staff and facilities are inadequate. Institutional racism is exposing African-America and ethnic minorities to generational injustice.
The system is in need of reform at every level. Sentencing juveniles to adult sanctions and imprisonment is becoming easier for prosecutors due, in part to mass media profiling.

Children in the criminal justice system

Basic to the formation and politics of the juvenile justice system is the belief children are legally unable to control appreciate their actions in the same manner as adults. Because of this difference responsibility for criminal acts is reduced and children should be treated with lesser sanctions than adults. Children who commit criminal acts are to be rehabilitated rather than punished to increase their chances for a successful adulthood.
These beliefs are often criticized as being ‘soft on crime.’ The criticisms used currently include lack of procedural safeguards, too broad discretionary authority of juvenile officials, de facto punishment rather than rehabilitation.
These are some of the same arguments used fifty years ago to justify providing juvenile the same due process as adults. The U.S. Supreme court decided in Kent v United States(1966) a formal hearing was to be giving juveniles before being transferred to adult court. An attorney is to be provided as a right to review the case.
In re Gault (1967) this case involved a 15-year-old boy sentenced to confinement until his 21st birthday for making an obscene phone call. The Supreme Court held ,“ that the benefits of the juvenile court and the juvenile court’s unique procedures for processing youths separately from adults should be available without any reductions in the law’s protection.”
In re Winship (1970)established the standard of proof’ beyond a reasonable doubt’, and Breed v Jones(1975), the court found juveniles cannot be found guilty prior to transfer to adult courts. This did not change no bail nor trial by jury procedures in juvenile court.
The issues of rehabilitation and increasing crime rates were addressed in the 1970-80’s. The juvenile court was believed to be inadequately dealing with protection, prevention of delinquency and treatment of youth in secure facilities. “Americans often assume that once we pass a law, create a bureaucracy, and spend money, the purpose of the law, the bureaucracy, and the expenditure will be achieved.”
The problems of how to provide protection and rehabilitation for children in custody is an issue of age of the child and nature of the crime. This is not a new issue but has been basic to juvenile and family law before these courts were established.

Policy Evaluations: Impressionistic versus Systematic

The mass media, particularly the television networks, play a major role in agenda setting. By deciding what will be news, the media set the agenda for political discussion. The headline reads “Boy, 17 gets life in prison for killing mother.” The system has been plagued by staff-on youth ,youth-staff and youth-on youth violence…major deficiencies in education, mental health and health care services” (Dayton Daily News, April 2008)
Dye, Thomas R., Understanding Public Policy, (2005), New Jersey Pearson Prentice Hall.
Free,Marvin, Jr. Editor, Racial Issues in Criminal Justice, (2003), Connecticut , Praeger. Praeger.
Myers,David L. Boys among Men Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults, (2005), ConnecticutPitts,Leonard,Jr.," Boy gets life in prison for killing mother","Doubts about the justice systems,(Dayton Daily News,2008)
Griffin, P., Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis Of State Transfer and Blended Sentencing Laws, 2003, Office of Juvenile Justice and National Center for Juvenile Justice New Findings, New Views: A Note of Caution Regarding Sentencing Reform

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