A juvenile refers to “a person who has not yet attained the mandatory age of eighteen years that qualifies a person to be called an adult” (Dicks, 1995). There has been a lot of debate on whether juveniles have the capacity to make good decisions or not. However a discovery was made by a group of scientist in 1990s who conducted a research to establish the cognitive processes in the minds of juveniles. The outcome was that, “adolescence decision making is characterized by emotional and cognitive immaturity, intensive peer pressure and heightened attitudes toward risk” (Dicks, 1995). Even though children can make a distinction between doing something right or wrong, they cannot make firm decisions as compared to adults because of the immaturity of their minds. They should therefore not be given criminal punishments equivalent to those given to adults unless the offence committed is very serious.
Criminal Penalties on Juveniles
The charges imposed on a juvenile who has committed an offence always vary according to the nature of the crime. For example if it is a minor offence, the juvenile can be corrected and then freed. However correction measures such as rehabilitation should be used as a mechanism of correcting children who consistently engage in serious vices like failure to quite drug abuse (Lawrence, 2008). In my opinion, juveniles who are found guilty of committing capital offences and cannot give valid reasons for their actions should be given death penalties. This is because, “it has been noted with a lot of concern that children are increasingly getting involved in several criminal activities on the pretext that they are still young and that they will not be charged” (Dicks, 1995).
Effects of Trying a Juvenile as an Adult
Before a juvenile is charged for a given offence, it is necessary for the jury to make good decisions that will ensure that the rights of the accused juvenile are not infringed on. Most of the children who engage in murder and other violent crimes that warrant death penalties are always aware of the consequences of engaging in such offences. Therefore they should be given similar penalties as those given to the adults. Giving the juveniles serious penalties can prevent other children from engaging in crime. Therefore it can reduce criminal cases in the society. If children with capital offences are locked in prison they will never have the chance to commit crime again. On the other hand if they are allowed back to the community they will feel like heroes and there is a high probability that they will engage in more serious crimes.
The juvenile courts should be reshaped in such away that their decisions are governed by effective laws which can give children effective corrective measures. This is because of the numerous court inconsistencies that do arise due to poorly drafted laws (Dicks, 1995). For example some laws were drastically enacted and put to practice when some children got involved in serious crimes and they have always failed to offer good conclusions to different court cases concerning juvenile crime. Very young children have engaged in shocking activities. For example cases have been reported in the media about armed children kidnapping adults and confiscating their properties. In my view, age should not be considered when dispensing justice. Penalties should be given on the basis of whether a person had the ability to determine whether his or her actions were right or wrong.
Dicks, S. (1995). Young blood: juvenile justice and the death penalty. New York: Prometheus.
Lawrence, R. (2008). Juvenile justice. Washington.D.C: Sage.