Published on:

Children in Court

A times, people contact Shorstein & Lasnetski, LLC to offer to submit a post or article for our Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer Blog. The following article was submitted by Kimberly Peterson who writes about online criminal justice degrees. She invites you to send your feedback to her at KimPeterson2006@gmail.com.

The establishment of juvenile courts was founded upon the belief that minors are unaware of their original intent in committing a crime. A five-year old who has committed a robbery or has stabbed someone does not yet have the moral capacity to understand that what he/she has done is not only ethically wrong, but also against the law. The ethics of children hardens by the time they are 18, although many states have deemed it necessary to try juveniles convicted of capital murder in adult courts, thereby exposing them to sentences in adult prisons. With the prison system the way it is, we are simply sending these children to a breeding ground of crime where they will be exposed to atrocities which they would otherwise have avoided in a juvenile detention center.

Juvenile centers were put into place in order to dissuade courts from sending minors to prison facilities, but also to keep an eye on offenders in an attempt to rehabilitate them before they reach the age of 18. The use of these centers is essential to swaying many teens from a life of crime, with over half of the teens admitted never returning to court. The goal is to get this number up closer to 100 percent. Many states have concluded that trying children in adult courts is more effective to deter them from returning to these courtrooms later in life; however, it has also been proven that by sending them to adult detention centers, this may only increase their odds of becoming a repeat criminal offender. The political decision in the mid-1990’s to combat what many thought was a rise in juvenile crime has turned out to be counter-productive and has instead led to an influx of adult prisoners who were sent to adult centers as minors.

This was a quick fix of a deeper problem which politicians did not delve into at the time. It has now become necessary to develop a more comprehensive method that involves more rehabilitation and counseling, rather than the growth of criminal masterminds. Children have no place in an adult courtroom, regardless of the gravity of their crimes. This may be a bold statement when compared to extreme cases such as the two boys at Columbine, but Progressive Era reformists believed it to be true, amidst evidence of other types of child-killers.

Revamping the juvenile systems in the U.S. is one of the first steps toward securing a better future for children who commit crimes. Placing kids who have frequently been late or absent from school with kids who have violently attacked someone is never a good blend, and can only lead to increased amounts of crime from both groups. The system needs to be reconditioned so that kids who have minor offenses are properly punished and kept away from the influence of kids who commit violent crimes; the kids who have committed minor offenses should have a separate system in which to receive rehabilitation and counseling. Juvenile centers have increasingly become structured to resemble prisons, but feature many other amenities and programs which help kids address issues that may have driven them to commit certain crimes. It is up to politicians to determine what can be amended to juvenile centers to make them more efficient towards both deterring future criminals and not producing new ones, without forcing minors to be sent to state prisons around the country.