|When should a juvenile be tried as an adult? In Nevada, the answer is simple: When he uses a gun… or when his friend uses a gun… or when somebody he hardly knows uses a gun. Welcome to the world of Certification, where childhood ends at the age of 13.|
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There is some recent research indicating that cognitive development of most teens up to 16 years old belies the very notion they are competent to understand the proceedings they are involved in--they really are not participating in the adult criminal justice system as an adult would presumably be able to participate....
The way I see it, though... You have a kid who is either going to experience justice or he is not. You are either going to reinforce whatever sense he has of right and wrong or you are going to mess it up.
Congress's goal then was to move the states away from failed policies that often turned young delinquents into hardened criminals and toward a framework based more on mentoring and rehabilitation. But the states have increasingly classified ever larger numbers of young offenders as adults, trying them in adult courts and holding them in adult prisons.
The damage wrought by these policies is vividly outlined in a federally backed study issued this spring. It reports that children handled in adult courts and confined in adult jails committed more violent crime than children processed through the traditional juvenile justice system. Other studies show that as many as half of the juvenile offenders sent to adult courts were not convicted there -- or were sent back to the juvenile system, but often after spending time in adult lockups. Equally disturbing is the fact that youths of color are more likely to be sent to adult prisons than their white counterparts.
Reauthorization hearings begin today and members need to listen closely to what the experts are saying. Trying children as adults -- except in isolated cases involving extreme violence -- is both inhumane and counterproductive.
©2005-07, Glenn Campbell
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