"children" "deserve" a "chance", sharing here some important information, truly the tides must be turned for our nation's children. More and more "children" are tried as an adult, they clearly and medically are NOT.
In the United States , young people under age 18 can't vote, purchase cigarettes or alcohol, drive alone without restrictions in some states, or participate in many other activities our society reserves for adults. Children under age 18 aren't legally considered adults yet, and as a result, many laws are designed especially to protect them. But there is a crucial exception: Almost 250,000 young people under 18 are transferred into the adult criminal justice system each year. Children and youths are being criminalized at younger and younger ages and often for behavior that used to be handled in the principal's office.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, major policy changes in virtually every state re-categorized many juvenile offenses as adult crimes and juvenile offenders as adult criminals. Many Americans might assume that only young people who commit the most violent crimes are at risk of being tried as adults and incarcerated with adult prisoners. But the majority of teens who are tried and sentenced in adult court aren't the serious, violent, chronic offenders who might have been subject to the death penalty, which was only recently struck down for juvenile offenders. Juvenile court judges have always had the power to evaluate those kinds of serious violent offenders and send them to the adult system if they thought it was warranted. Today many states have passed new laws that require automatic transfers of juvenile offenders to adult court without any individualized evaluation of their cases based simply on the nature of the offense or the young person's age.
In many states, prosecutors are required to file certain cases in adult court even if it's against their better judgment. In fact, nearly 90 percent of youths transferred to the adult system nationwide are there because of a lowered age of adulthood in 13 states. This means they are automatically tried in the adult system solely because their state has lowered the age of adulthood in the criminal code. In these states, any young person accused of an offense who is 17 years old-or 16 years old in three of the 13 states-will be sent into the adult criminal justice system for any offense whether it is serious or not. Each year, as many as 218,000 youths under age 18 are automatically excluded from the juvenile justice system solely because of their age. T his growing trend is threatening to get even worse: right now, both the House and Senate are considering bills that would make transferring youths easier and more likely at the federal level. The House version has already been passed. It was introduced partly in response to recent gang activity involving teenagers and young adults. But will treating more juveniles as adult criminals help stop juvenile crime or simply provide them worse criminal mentors?
In reality, transferring youths has already been proved to be a failed public policy. The facts show that trying and sentencing youths in adult criminal court is harmful rather than helpful. Research shows over and over that prosecuting young people as adults increases rather than reduces youth crime. Jails and prisons are crime schools. We already know that compared to young people prosecuted as juveniles, young people prosecuted as adults are more likely to commit a greater number of crimes upon release; commit more violent crimes upon release; and commit crimes sooner upon release. Not only is it not effective public policy, holding youths in adult prisons and jails also has dangerous consequences for the young people themselves. Compared to youths held in juvenile facilities, young people incarcerated with adults are five times as likely to be sexually assaulted by other inmates; are twice as likely to be beaten by staff; are 50% more likely to be assaulted with a weapon; and are eight times as likely to commit suicide.
What does work? Prevention is one key piece of the puzzle. Research clearly shows the effectiveness of focused family interventions in saving children and money. Some school-based interventions, including bullying and drug abuse prevention programs, and some sound mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America have also been proven effective. Above all, studies have shown that comprehensive, collaborative and locally tailored strategies are the most effective in preventing gang and youth violence. Existing state legislation is more than adequate to comprehensively address youth violence.
Increased federalization of juvenile crime and increasing the numbers of juveniles transferred to the adult system are not the answer. The responsibility of Congress to the young people of this nation and to all citizens in ensuring public safety requires finding solutions proven to be effective. Why are some policymakers insisting on approaches that lack any evidence of actually deterring and reducing violent youth crime and that punish without protection? Why is the only thing our nation will guarantee every child a detention or jail cell after they get into trouble? When are we going to provide all children the healthy and fair start in life that keeps them out of jail?
Marian Wright Edelman is President and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund and its Action Council whose Leave No Child Behind® mission strives to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
Thomas White needs to have his case heard in juvenile because he is only 14-years old and has had no previous brushes with the law.
His case should remain in juvenile because they have one of the finest juvenile justice systems in this country. Also, if a facility is not appropriate, Boys and Girls Town is licensed by Missouri to step in and help troubled kids. With these 2 options, why is the prosecutor so gung-ho on Dual Jurisdiction? If he does the Dual Jurisdiction, Thomas will still have a criminal record at the end, so why does he have to have his life ruined before it has even begun? The law recognizes that Thomas is entitled to having juvenile options exhausted, before he is thrown into Dual-Jurisdiction. Boys Town will keep him until he is 21.
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