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Arlayna Deese

Mrs. Debock

English 4 Honors

March 9, 2017

Juvenile Convictions

A juvenile is considered to be anyone under the age of eighteen. Juvenile convictions

have been a topic of debate for both the court system and citizens about whether adolescents

should be tried as adults for serious crimes. The brutality of crimes committed by teens is rising

and states across the country have their own process they have incorporated into their court

system to help prosecute a minor. Juveniles should be held accountable for his or her actions

against the law. If a juvenile is capable of committing a heinous crime then they should be tried

as an adult no matter their age.

Teens should be held accountable for their actions and in some instances be tried as adult

for the crimes they are presumed guilty for. Juveniles who have committed crimes like murder

believe the laws dont apply to them because of their age. According to an article by Heather

Newton, In 2005, Roper vs. Simmons became the US Supreme Courts most recent case

involving the death penalty for juvenile offenders. Simmons was a junior in high school, age

seventeen, when he persuaded one of his friends to help break into a house, stage a robbery, tie

up anyone in the house and then throw then off a bridge. He believed because of their age they

would not be tried as adults. Simmons was caught, charged as an adult and sentenced to death

after the jury had taken into consideration the facts and most importantly his age. After properly

weighing these factors, in some cases the difficult decision to prosecute a juvenile offender as an

adult is warranted (Backstrom). Prosecutors that convict a minor take into consideration
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maturity, severity of the crime and criminal history. The younger a child is, more people find it

easier to blame the parents, but this should not be the case. Many believe despite the suggestion

that young people should not be prosecuted as adults because their brains are not fully

developed, most juveniles do know the difference between right and wrong (Backstrom). Being

able to charge an adolescent for a violent crime is what is best for public safety and will hold a

juvenile liable for his or her actions.

The brutality of crimes committed by teens is rising. Statistics have shown the amount of

crimes being committed by certain groups and have made a reference to the U.S. being 14th in

murders per capita committed by youths(Murphy). In a past recent year, juveniles have

committed as many violent crimes as seven highest countries combined. The U.S. ranks third in

murders committed by youths and 14th in murders per capita committed by youths, putting it in

the same league as Panama, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Cuba, and Belarus (Stimson

and Grossman). This is believed to be an effect of the court treating them as children first and

criminals second. Many states across the country have lowered the age of which a juvenile can

be prosecuted in adult court. It is not uncommon to see children of a young age commit a serious

crime. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crimes committed by juveniles increased

by 60 percent from 1984 to 1998 (Collier). Juveniles were once mostly vandalism and truancy,

but have now been the perpetrators of more threatening crimes such as rape, murder and

aggravated assault. The number of 12-year-olds arrested for violent crimes has doubled and the

number of 13 and 14-year-olds has tripled since 1965, as stated by government statistics. The

number of violent and deadly juvenile offenses have increased and it is no longer unordinary to

see an adolescent be charged with a heinous crime.


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Each state across the United States have created laws that they consider is in the best way

to prosecute an offender. Juvenile court systems have helped reduced adolescent crimes and have

not been overly harsh on juvenile offenders. These laws strike a proper balance between

protecting public safety, holding youth appropriately accountable for their crimes and

rehabilitating youthful offenders (Backstrom). In certain places, like Jacksonville, Florida, there

are programs for juvenile incarceration that segregate them to a youth-only section of the jail and

focuses on education and rehabilitation. Since this program was implemented the amount of

juvenile crime has greatly reduced in the Jacksonville area. Approaches such as the blending

sentencing model supports a balanced approach to juvenile justice which properly takes into

consideration all relevant factors in deciding what criminal charge should be filed against a

juvenile offender and whether the case should be disposed of in juvenile or adult court or

handled under a middle-ground approach of addressing juvenile crime (Backstrom). This model

currently exist in fifteen states in the US and are a combination of juvenile and adult criminal

sanctions for serious or violent juvenile offenders. Although each state has a different way of

handling adolescent offenders, there are still rules that can contribute to a strong juvenile court

system. In an article published by Linda J. Collier, she gives her suggestion that it is needed to

establish a uniform minimum age for trying juveniles as adults enable to keep the court system

fair. There is a juvenile court system in each state that help determine the prosecution of a minor

by implementing their own methods.

Among personal opinions of how juvenile convictions should be handled, there is

arguments that state charging someone who is under the legal age of eighteen is violating their

constitutional rights. In 1989, Joe Harris Sullivan was arrested and indicted for the rape and

robbery of a 72-year-old woman. He was charged with two counts of burglary, two counts of
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sexual battery and one count of grand theft auto. He was tried as an adult and, at the age of

thirteen, was sentenced to life without parole. Sullivan has repeatedly challenged the

constitutionality of his sentence, contending that sentencing a 13-year-old to life in prison with

no opportunity of parole violates the Eighth Amendments prohibition of cruel and unusual

punishment(Makar). Contrary to many beliefs the US Constitution does not forbad the use of

this sentence. The eighth amendment protects ones right from inhumane punishments like

torture. The Court has approved harsh punishments for a variety of offenses so long as

legislatures have a "reasonable basis" for believing that the punishment advances the criminal-

justice system's goals (Stimson and Grossman). Every states juvenile justice system different

on how they choose to handle cases that involve minors. Some of these offenders are tried as

adults and a small percentage of them are sentenced to life without parole, which is presumed by

some to be the strongest sentence available to express society's disapproval, incapacitate the

criminal, and deter the most serious offenses (Stimson and Grossman). Very few instances occur

where a juvenile is given a harsh sentence, but when it does that severity of the crime can cause

the court to appeal more in the favor of public safety. Constitutionally, giving an adolescent the

sentence of life without parole is legal and does not violate their rights.

In some instances juveniles who commit heinous crimes should be tried as an adult and

be held accountable for their actions. People will let their emotions cloud their judgement for a

young child who has been sentenced. Constitutionally, when a juvenile is sentenced to a harsh

punishment, like life without parole, it does not violate their rights. Prosecutors take into

consideration public safety, criminal history and, the one of the biggest factors, age. Juveniles are

well aware of right from wrong and should be charged according to their offense rather than their

age.
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Works Cited

Backstrom, James C. "The Criminal Justice System Should Treat Some Juveniles as Adults."

Opposing Viewpoints in Context, 27 Oct. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Backstrom, James C. "Tough Juvenile Justice Policies Reduce Crime by Holding Juveniles

Accountable." Opposing Viewpoints in Context, 31 Dec. 2007. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

Collier, Linda J. "More Teenage Criminals Should Be Tried as Adults." Opposing Viewpoints in
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Context, 29 Mar. 1998. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Makar, Scott D. "Does Sentencing a 13-year-old Offender to Life Without Parole Constitute

"Cruel and Unusual Punishment"?" Points of View Reference Center, 14 Sept. 2009. Web.

22 Feb. 2017.

Murphy, Wendy. "The Severity of Juvenile Crime Is Increasing." Opposing Viewpoints in

Context, 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Newton, Heather. In Some Situations, Teens Should Be Tried as Adults. Points of View

Reference Center, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Stimson, Charles D., and Andrew M. Grossman. "Life Without Parole in the Adult System Is

Reasonable for Some Juvenile Offenders." Opposing Viewpoints, 2010. Web. 8 Mar.

2017.