Trying juveniles as adults


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Message 739042 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 18:39:47 UTC

Ok people, I am new to posting on this forum, so be kind please...

By now many of you have read about the horrible thing that happened to Blurf. (See thread in Cafe.) While on one hand I find the violence and crime committed by these juveniles to be shocking and inexcusable, on the other hand I do wonder what horrible cognitive and/or social events could have resulted in two young people reaching adolescence with such a profound lack of human compassion.

When I look at the Blurf thread in the cafe, it disturbs me to read that so many people are hoping (even praying!) that these two juveniles be tried as adults. Frankly, I think there is good reason to try juveniles as juveniles. As a species, it takes our frontal lobes take a very long time to fully mature.

Don't get me wrong! I think these two young people have lost their right to walk freely amongst us, at least until a time when they can be helped to understand the full horror of what they have done, and until they can learn to exercise control over their impulses and actions.

Do I think these two young people deserve the maximum punishments and rehabilitation efforts our society has deemed appropriate for juvenile offenders? Probably yes... Do I think these two young people deserve the maximum punishments and rehabilitation efforts our society has set aside for adult offenders... probably no.

I am curious to know what you all think...

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Message 739045 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 18:50:26 UTC

Angela..i was thinking exactly the same thing..but i didn't like to say anything in Blurf's thread.

My son was attacked quite badly a few months ago..he went through a terrifying ordeal at the hands of an older boy. That boy has now finally been arrested and every one keeps telling me that they hope he goes to jail etc.

Part of me as a mother wants that boy to suffer as much as possible for what he put my son through..but part of me knows that he is just a kid and must have some deep seated problems to behave in such a way. Does he as a child (around 15 years old i think) need to be punished or helped? If he goes to an adult jail he won't get help and will probably end up worse than when he went in.

My son will tell me he wants that boy to go to the worst jail ever and get beaten up..i however think he should be sent somewhere he will be helped, but there is no way i want this boy walking about in our neighbourhood any more where my son might come across him.

From the sound of it Blurf's attackers need help as something must have gone badly wrong for them to even consider such an act.
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Message 739076 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 20:06:20 UTC
Last modified: 14 Apr 2008, 20:16:35 UTC

The following doesn't necessarily reflect the views of Scarecrows.... but it probably does.


Public Opinion On Juvenile Justice

"When a teenager commits a murder and is found guilty by a jury, do you think he should get the death penalty or should he be spared because of his youth?"

Yes, death penalty: 60%

No, spared: 30%

Don't know: 10%

Source: The Gallup Organization, Inc., Sourcebook 1994, p. 184
=======

"In your view, should juveniles who commit violent crimes be treated the same as adults, or should they be given more lenient treatment in a juvenile court?"

Treated the same: 68%

More lenient: 13%

Depends: 16%

Don't Know: 3%

Source: Los Angeles Times poll of U.S. public, 1994
=======

"In most places, there are criminal justice programs that treat juveniles differently than adults who commit the same crimes. These programs emphasize protecting and rehabilitating juveniles rather than punishing them. How successful would you say these programs have been at controlling juvenile crime?"

Not successful at all: 23%

Not very successful: 49%

Moderately successful: 24%

Very successful: 1%

"First, do you think that juveniles convicted of their first crime should be given the same punishment as adults convicted of their first crime, or should juveniles be treated less harshly?"

Treated the same: 50%

Treated less harshly: 40%

Depends on the circumstances: 9%

"Do you think that juveniles convicted of their second or third crimes should be given the same punishment as adults convicted of their second or third crimes--or should juveniles be treated less harshly?"

Treated the same: 83%

Treated less harshly: 12%

Depends on the circumstances: 4%

"In your own view, should the law require fines or prison sentences for the parents of juveniles convicted of major crimes, or not?"

Yes, prison/fines: 24%

Yes, fines only: 24%

No: 48%

No opinion: 4%

Source: The Gallup Organization, Inc., reprinted in U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1994.


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Message 739080 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 20:16:39 UTC
Last modified: 14 Apr 2008, 20:21:52 UTC

Well these situations are difficult, and it's hard to base an opinion both on justice and the youth of these offenders. What is enough, what too much as punishment/disciplary measure? Is it better to send them to a psychic clinic for stationary therapy - to both, protect the society from them and help them to socialize? Or is it better to send them to jail (like any adults) just to protect the society from them - with them learning nothing in the worst case or having a worse fate there than they caused their victims themselves? Or is it better to teach them responsibility by release on licence and/or social work, or detention? Honestly spoken, I do not know.
Even here in Germany there are people who say, "if they are grown up enough to do such things they have to face the punishment for grown-ups"...
But I disagree to that, even though I think sometimes they seem to get off lightly with such offences...
I really don't know. I think the truth lies inbetween: However they are tried, the sentence should be chosen based on the maturity (despite the age) of the offenders instead of just their age, to be real just.
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Message 739084 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 20:20:00 UTC - in response to Message 739076.

The following doesn't necessarily reflect the views of Scarecrows.... but it probably does.


Public Opinion On Juvenile Justice

>snip to avoid long fullquote<


I think the longing for punishment rather than rehabilitation/resocializing has something to do with a wish for revenge. But is revenge just?
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Message 739103 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 21:31:05 UTC


. . . depends on the Actual Circumstances - ALL Evidence inclusive

> there are too many 'children' of varying ages that are actually

'cold-hearted' and have a consciousness regarding their acts . . .

and just go right ahead and perform their acts with clear thought involved


> as far as 'punishment' goes - re-habilitation may work in most cases,

though in some, there is the likelyhood of 'no remorse' on the part of certain juveniles . . .

note: when i was younger (between 5 & 15 years old) i knew the 'difference'

between right & wrong and there was a certain instance - when i was 6 1/2 - that i

did something (no need to get into it here) that would be considered today

- to be 'against the law' per se - and i knew EXACTLY what i was doing @ that time . . .

. . . 50+ yrs later - looking back - i'd say that children might be even brighter

and very much aware of the law & as well - the 'consequences' of their actions

and most likely aware of the facts regarding getting away w/ 'a crime'


< so, all-in-all - it most likely depends - as i said - on the circumstances involved . . .

< also - regarding what was done to Pete - the Punishment should 'fit' the crime


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Message 739117 - Posted: 14 Apr 2008, 22:03:06 UTC

I too, read Blurf's thread and the responses referring to trying adolescents (still children) as adults. I work with troubled adolescents and somewhere along the line they have been let down whether by their families and/or wider society. Certainly here in the UK it is a widespread problem with our kids and the feeling of helplessness produced amongst the adults, who should be in charge. These children are products of our whole society and are a reflection of that society and I believe we all have a shared responsibility in bringing up all children in a well nurtured and caring environment.

In the case of Esme (my daughter) and her son, we would hope that the young person responsible for the assault would get the help that he needs while keeping him off the streets so that he won't attack someone else.

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Message 739201 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 1:14:05 UTC - in response to Message 739045.

something must have gone badly wrong for them to even consider such an act.

<--- Knows what it is, has been saying it for years, and nobody seems to be listening... ;)

(Just keep ignoring the problem, keep beefing up the security, and keep building the fences higher.)
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Message 739249 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 3:59:07 UTC

What an interesting set of responses. Something Thorin said really struck me.

However they are tried, the sentence should be chosen based on the maturity (despite the age) of the offenders instead of just their age, to be real just.


I sure do understand what you are saying Thorin, but judging a person's maturity level can so subjective!

I suspect our courts use age ranges to define juveniles vs adults because age ranges are less subject to a society's biases. Say members of a society prejudged people with purple noses to be social pariahs and people with orange noses to be of a higher social standing. In such a system internal biases might result in significantly more juveniles with purple noses being tried as adults and more juveniles with orange noses being tried as juveniles. At least with an age cut-off, there is some objectivity.

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Message 739255 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 4:23:24 UTC

This is probably going to be THE most unpopular response you will see in this thread...and I apologize if I offend anyone....but my ( our ) opinion(s) were asked for...and I'll give mine.

I am so utterly sick and tired of people saying " Well if they did something like that, then they must have had..." insert traumatic childhood, mental illness, mean Mommy....whatever.

People these days absolutely refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. Instead they want to blame what they do on someone/ something, that suits their purpose.

I don't give a rat's ass about our " frontal lobes " and when they fully develop. There is a simple line between right and wrong. It's not that damn hard to find.

The crime they committed ( when the person they committed it AGAINST is taken into consideration ) was an ADULT crime.

I could not care less about how traumatic their childhood was. They KNEW that what they were doing against Blurf was wrong.

As soon as they decided that they didn't care about how wrong it was, they made an adult decision. Therefore, they should face the consequences of an adult decision based on the same rules and punishments an adult would have to face.
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Message 739264 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 5:01:04 UTC

Sociopaths are born, no made. The sooner society discovers and removes them the better. It does not make any difference if they are 7 or 27.
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Message 739276 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 6:20:08 UTC - in response to Message 739264.

Sociopaths are born, no made.

Yet leaders are made, not born... ;)

(Another double standard?)
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Message 739288 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 7:35:05 UTC
Last modified: 15 Apr 2008, 7:40:49 UTC

Well... (though having not much time it urges me to reply)

In my first post here (the one that struck Angela) I stated they should be judged by their maturity despite their age - thus said, I must say I met adults 30+ who spoke and acted less mature than some teenies I met who were 16 and younger, and other teenies I met acted and spoke as if they were at least 5 years younger than they were. That's why I think you can't draw a line from which age people are mature enough to be responsible enough to be judged as adults. That's why I think that maturity can be found out (ex. by psychologists - and their judgement is most probably not subjective).

Though I nonetheless tend to disagree KM, I must admit he has a point.
Several people I grew up with, who are in my age and had a similar bad childhood like me, have committed crimes since we were teens. A few of them still (or again) are in jail.
So why did I not commit crimes like them? Why have I never been in jail like them?
Because even as a teen I decided, no matter how the people around me (my parents included) treated me, not to have me sink that low myself.

It is always a matter of decision-making. Every person in their right mind can say no to their own plans and ponderings until the last second before they set them into reality. Even if you go as far as drawing a gun and aiming it at someone, you can always stop yourself before bending your finger and shoot - as long as you're able and willing to listen to your conscience.

Coming back to the incident which caused this thread, I bet most of the people who now yell "Hang them high!" would back off if they were called to be the person who actually has to hang them.
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Message 739290 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 7:55:17 UTC
Last modified: 15 Apr 2008, 7:55:54 UTC

I have a leaning towards Thorin's position on judging their maturity when considering the range of options for punishment and/or rehabilitation.

I would, however, take one further point in to consideration where history is known. Was this a first offence or have there been other similar crimes been link to the individuals concerned before?

If there is previous criminal activity then the punishment, coupled with rehab, should swing towards the adult levels.

The other main point Thorin is making is that everyone has decisions and choices before any act. The realisation that there may be concequences arising from these choices, and responsibility for those actions is very importamt.

I believe there is a point in maturing that the excuse of a traumatic childhood and being let down fades as a defence.
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Message 739300 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 8:39:50 UTC
Last modified: 15 Apr 2008, 8:41:48 UTC

I've seen many of you here say that these kids know what they are doing and that is enough to try them as an adult..or that if the crime is bad enough..they should be tried as an adult. I really don't follow the argument there. I work with children of this age group..and i am willing to bet that a large section of my pupils (hopefully not at my current school..but certainly at other schools I have taught at)..are or have been involved in crime. A lot of them will have parents that are involved in crime..a lot of them will have parents that don't or can't control them because there is no support for them..bringing up teenagers is extremely hard, especially in today's society. With a lack of social cohesion and many poorer families seeing that society doesn't care about them, they will have the attitude of why should they care about society. If we don't examine the situation that bought a child to the point where they think it is ok to mug someone in wheelchair (or mug anyone..let's face it.. the crime of mugging is traumatic no matter who the victim) then how are we going to change things so it doesn't happen again?

Punishment and revenge are the first natural responses to hearing about something like this...but are they really the most useful? I know from personal experience that teenagers can be absolutely horrible and shockingly foul. Most of them really do think they are the centre of the universe, they have trouble not only recognising other people's feelings but controlling their own. Mood swings, bouts of irrational behaviour and lack of physical control are absolutely normal for teenagers. They really biologically can't help it. Add to that a bad background...drugs..poverty....poor parenting..lack of decent role models (especially for boys as often in poorer areas the fathers are absent or themselves in jail) and it doesn't surprise me at all that things like this happen.

So I am against trying someone as an adult if they are not an adult...what i would rather see is early intervention..support for families and programs that tackle poverty.
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Message 739307 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 9:14:33 UTC - in response to Message 739300.

I've seen many of you here say that these kids know what they are doing and that is enough to try them as an adult..or that if the crime is bad enough..they should be tried as an adult. I really don't follow the argument there. I work with children of this age group..and i am willing to bet that a large section of my pupils (hopefully not at my current school..but certainly at other schools I have taught at)..are or have been involved in crime. A lot of them will have parents that are involved in crime..a lot of them will have parents that don't or can't control them because there is no support for them..bringing up teenagers is extremely hard, especially in today's society. With a lack of social cohesion and many poorer families seeing that society doesn't care about them, they will have the attitude of why should they care about society. If we don't examine the situation that bought a child to the point where they think it is ok to mug someone in wheelchair (or mug anyone..let's face it.. the crime of mugging is traumatic no matter who the victim) then how are we going to change things so it doesn't happen again?

Punishment and revenge are the first natural responses to hearing about something like this...but are they really the most useful? I know from personal experience that teenagers can be absolutely horrible and shockingly foul. Most of them really do think they are the centre of the universe, they have trouble not only recognising other people's feelings but controlling their own. Mood swings, bouts of irrational behaviour and lack of physical control are absolutely normal for teenagers. They really biologically can't help it. Add to that a bad background...drugs..poverty....poor parenting..lack of decent role models (especially for boys as often in poorer areas the fathers are absent or themselves in jail) and it doesn't surprise me at all that things like this happen.

So I am against trying someone as an adult if they are not an adult...what i would rather see is early intervention..support for families and programs that tackle poverty.


Well said Esme

But, after a certain point I think other equaly valid opinions need to be taken in to the balance when judging a criminal who has been caught -

- age, maturity, family circumstances, previous criminal history, the company they keep, etc

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Message 739342 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 11:30:07 UTC - in response to Message 739300.

I've seen many of you here say that these kids know what they are doing and that is enough to try them as an adult..or that if the crime is bad enough..they should be tried as an adult. I really don't follow the argument there. I work with children of this age group..and i am willing to bet that a large section of my pupils (hopefully not at my current school..but certainly at other schools I have taught at)..are or have been involved in crime. A lot of them will have parents that are involved in crime..a lot of them will have parents that don't or can't control them because there is no support for them..bringing up teenagers is extremely hard, especially in today's society. With a lack of social cohesion and many poorer families seeing that society doesn't care about them, they will have the attitude of why should they care about society. If we don't examine the situation that bought a child to the point where they think it is ok to mug someone in wheelchair (or mug anyone..let's face it.. the crime of mugging is traumatic no matter who the victim) then how are we going to change things so it doesn't happen again?

Punishment and revenge are the first natural responses to hearing about something like this...but are they really the most useful? I know from personal experience that teenagers can be absolutely horrible and shockingly foul. Most of them really do think they are the centre of the universe, they have trouble not only recognising other people's feelings but controlling their own. Mood swings, bouts of irrational behaviour and lack of physical control are absolutely normal for teenagers. They really biologically can't help it. Add to that a bad background...drugs..poverty....poor parenting..lack of decent role models (especially for boys as often in poorer areas the fathers are absent or themselves in jail) and it doesn't surprise me at all that things like this happen.

So I am against trying someone as an adult if they are not an adult...what i would rather see is early intervention..support for families and programs that tackle poverty.


At some point you have to draw an imaginary line in the sand and say anything beyond this point is simply intolerable and deserving of PUNISHMENT, not rehabilitation.

Their actions show an overwhelming lack of any redeemable quality, and just like we hold the guy soliciting sex from minors, to a different standard than the "John" soliciting sex from a prostitute, we should also hold those guilty of assault to a different standard than those guilty of assaulting the infirm (handicapped, elderly, etc.), regardless of the circumstances which led them to that point.



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Message 739484 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 20:12:27 UTC

Angela-glad I was able to generate a discussion topic for you.

I agree a minor snatch-n-grab (shoving, knocking someone down and robbing) should be treated as a juvenile-court issue but IMHO what was done to me took it a step further and they should be treated as adults.
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Message 739493 - Posted: 15 Apr 2008, 20:27:04 UTC

This is probably going to be THE most unpopular response you will see in this thread...and I apologize if I offend anyone....but my ( our ) opinion(s) were asked for...and I'll give mine.


Please know that I am in no way offended by opinions that differ from my own. As I see from Scarecrow's polling information, I pretty much hold a minority opinion on everything! I started this thread for discussion and I think it is getting really interesting now!


I don't give a rat's ass about our " frontal lobes " and when they fully develop. There is a simple line between right and wrong. It's not that damn hard to find.


I'm not sure commision of a crime is really about knowing right from wrong. Unless a person is completely psychotic, he or she probably knows that violent crimes are wrong. Even a four year old who sneaks a cookie out of the cookie jar knows he is not supposed to do this. He simply gives into the impulse because he is not mature enough to weigh all of the consequences and ramifications. He is not mature enough to put himself in his parents' shoes and understand all the many and complex reasons why he should resist snagging a treat. Perhaps he even gets a thrill from the theft.

In the first ten years of my career, I worked with many adults who had suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI). As a population, TBI sufferers show poor judgment and high impulsivity. They do and say utterly outrageous things. They often lash out violently. Family members are often shocked and appalled at what their loved ones have become. There are developmental correlations with traumatic brain injury. Violent adults with TBI's no longer have full control of their ability to reason well, empathize with others, exercise sound judgement and control impulses. Young people, who are still developing these skills, do not have full control of them as well.

As a society we have decided that people of certain ages are not cognitively mature enough to make decisions for themselves. People under 21 cannot legally drink alcohol. People under 18 cannot pose for magazines like Playboy, vote for President, or enlist in the military. Our criminal justice system is set up to treat juveniles as people who do not yet have full cognitive maturity and control. In general, I think this is a good thing.

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