Should Juvenile Offenders Be Tried In Adult Courts?

There are many factors that need to be considered in order to justify whether or not that juvenile offenders should be tried in an adult court. Some of the factors can be considered as being very clear cut but other factors may be hazier and less prescriptive.

Consider first the age range that is considered to be classified as juvenile. In essence to qualify as a juvenile young person should be under the age of eighteen. The difficulty here is that many sixteen and seventeen year olds can be very mature for their age and are culpable for their behavior and actions. Likewise there are many eighteen year olds that have not yet achieved the ability to act and think as a twelve year old!

The next issue that can be confusing revolves around the consensus that defines when a child or juvenile become an adult? The confusion here is not about age related cognitive ability (as defined by Piaget, who gave rough age outlines of when a child should be able to take particular mental processes), but about when a child has to pay full adult fare on transport, or when they are allowed to make their own decisions about their health, hold a driver’s license or vote. Throughout Europe and the US, these ages vary.

If a juvenile is tried in an adult court then that means that they will be treated as an adult and if convicted will be sent to an adult prison, where their needs may or may not be met. This action may also have an effect on behavior and reoffending at the end of the sentence. It should also be taken into consideration that some young people may commit an offence as for example a sixteen year old and because of the complexity of the case the trial may not take place until they are eighteen, as getting all the relevant information and evidence together may take that long to sift through and present in court.

It is important to keep an open mind when it comes to such important issues. There needs to be uniformity as to a general consensus of what age is a juvenile considered to be an adult not just in the eyes of the law and justice but in other areas of society. There also needs to be an acknowledgement concerning the benefits and fairness of trying a juvenile as an adult and the fairness of any punishment.

There are many questions that need to be considered and perhaps each should be judged on its own merit and severity.

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