FC: Juvenile Offenders: Should They Be Tried As Adults? Alfa Abame English IV April 20, 2012
1: Imagine hearing the slamming of the gavel as the judge brought it down sentencing you to spend 20 or more years in prison because you were tried as an adult. Never mind the fact that it might be your first offense. In a country that believes in the mentality you do the crime, you do the time, juvenile offenders are constantly faced with the impending doom of their life being spent in jail. Although children should be more aware of their actions and take measures to stop them, should they be subjected to the same punishment that makes grown men and women, hate government officials because they feel the system has failed them? This project is all about uncovering not only the impact these sentences have on juveniles but also at the rate in which it is growing. It is easy to lay the blame of these offenses on the environment they are raised in but what about the social institutions which are in place to teach them right from wrong? What part do they play in the rising rate of juvenile offenders in the twenty-first century? Our society has a bad habit of labeling young children as deviants from the beginning and instead of taking measure to help them rise above that, they use it as a reasoning for why they aren't succeed in life. Juvenile offenders are young children who have made a bad decision and are often times labeled by the very system that is in place to protect them. Many juveniles are considered to be deviants and therefore any minor thing they might do is punished harshly. | In my opinion this is something that not only has caused great rifts to form between those that have authority and those that are by default expected to adhere to the authority figures placed in their lives. So the question is, should juvenile offenders be tried and punished as adults? | Preface
3: Table of Contents | Page # Background Information................................4-6 Words: The Process........................................7 Heavy Sentencing: Lowering Juvenile Crime Rates Myth........................................................8-9 Interview.................................................10-13 Prisoner at Fourteen: Lionel Tate's Verdict.......14-15 Response...............................................16-17 Work Cited.............................................18-19 Picture Cited...........................................20 About the Author......................................21
4: In country that prides itself on equipping its citizens with certain unalienable rights, the United States has done a poor job of allowing juvenile offenders the proper form of representation when facing a hearing. Their voices are often silenced because they are deemed to young to understand the proceedings that often seal their fate. The lawyers that are supposed to be in place to help them convey their side in a convincing manner often place their own views in place of the child's. Over the years schools have become more focused on “weeding out” the trouble makers that they are failing to give them the proper example of the life they should live. | Instead of fostering the dream of a better tomorrow, institutions are constantly on the look out for ways to better upgrade their security systems in hopes of discouraging juvenile offenders. School security came into play in the 1960s when the nation was facing riots and hate crimes due to the disbanding of segregation laws. I chose the topic of juvenile offenders because I have noticed that there has been an increase in the number of my peers that face some form of punishment from the law. | Background Information
5: It doesn't seem very smart to try and teach someone a lesson and hope they improve by placing them the same place that holds hardened adults who will only pollute the developing minds of juveniles. Studies show that a rise in juvenile offenders didn't start to occur until schools made them a primary focus in the educational institutions that students spend the majority of their time in. The fear that students would form an uprising has caused states to make schools operate like a penal institution where things are set up much like a court system where if “you do the crime, you do the time". Our nation is the only nation that has sentenced juveniles to life in prison. In the United States there are approximately 2,500 juvenile offenders under the age o | f 18 who are serving out life sentences. Of those 2,500, 109 of them are children who committed crimes that didn't involve murder and seventy-four who were under the age of 14 or younger when they committed their crimes. Seventy-seven out of the 109 were sentenced in Florida. When the state attorney- general was asked out why there was such a high case of juvenile offenders being imprisoned, he made the statement that “Florida officials have started to crack down on offenders since the 1990s in order to ensure that the tourist state gets all the visitors it needs to prosper.”
6: It's interesting to see just how much the punishment for juveniles has changed drastically over the years. Punishment has developed from the parents doing the disciplining through spanking and grounding to parents calling the cops on their children because they are “out of control”. By looking through cases that have been brought before the Supreme Court it's evident that people are still debating the punishment for juvenile offenders and how far it has to go before it will be considered “cruel and usual”. As time progresses its appears as though parents are making less of an effort to raise their children and more inclined to leave them to the state institutions that they are so quick to send them off to. You no longer see the nuclear family that used to be so evident back in the 1950s. Now, it's predominantly homes with | divorced parents, unstable living arrangements and social institutions that help foster the idea of individual needs and the mentality that it's okay to do whatever it takes to get ahead, as long as you don't get caught.
8: American courts are trying to "scare straight" juvenile offenders by placing them in jail to serve out an adult sentence. In hopes they won't commit a worse crime when released. However, studies show that they are more than likely to commit an offense sooner or more often than those who were tried in the juvenile system. They keep enforcing harsher punishments in hope of lowering the rate of juvenile crime rates. There are advocate groups that are fighting to do away with trying juvenile as adults because they feel that if children aren't given the same rights as adults, such as in voting, then why should they be tried as such. Juvenile's have yet to grow into full maturity and are still developing. Therefore, they can be taught between right and wrong and learn how to live a life as a law abiding citizen. Unlike adults who are already set in their ways and aren't likely to ratify their unsavory behavior. Studies have also shown that juveniles that are tried as adults are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a deadly weapon, and eight times as likely to commit suicide than a child who is tried in the juvenile courts. When one examines the cold hard facts and its amazing to see that the very courts that pride themselves on being fair and just would continually ignore the evidence that heavy sentencing is not working. Although juvenile should in fact face punishment for breaking the law, they are still capable of redemption and should be treated as such. Its no wonder the same kids ,who see friends burned by the very system set in place to protect them, aren't willing to follow the so called authority thrust upon them. | Heavy Sentencing: Lowering Juvenile Crime Rates Myth
9: It appears that the more stress there is in the home the more juveniles feel the need to act out. While some might just screaming at the top of their lungs, there are those who feel that the only way to relieve some of the stress is by committing petty crimes in hopes of getting some attention from their parents. When this fails to get them the desired attention, they escalate into even more severe crimes. This never ending cycle is one that starts because parents aren't playing a very active role in their lives. That's not say that parents who take really good care of their kids don't have to undergo some form of “rebellious” behavior. The parents that do care and are active participants are able to catch the signs earlier and intervene before it's too late. The juveniles that appear in court are ninety percent of the time escorted by their mothers because the father, who used be playing the role of steadfast role model, isn't in the picture or doesn't care. This lack of caring is often a result of the fact the parents also have priors and had to go through the system. Instead of doing all they can to keep them from going through the system, it appears that parents view it as a sort of “writ of passage” into adulthood. When the people who are supposed to steer you right, tell you that the things you are doing are right then of course your first inclination is to believe them. This causes juveniles to view the law as suggestions and not fact. Nationwide the age of children committing crimes is getting younger and younger all because of the social stigma that their environment is compromised of. While many people would like to blame the system for failing juveniles, the real blame lays at the hand of social environment that constantly feeds children the message that the tougher you are the more people will respect you.
10: Interview: Vicki Rylant | 1.How long you have you been a court clerk? I have been a Deputy Clerk and worked with the juvenile cases for 7 years here in Payne County. 2.In the years you've spent working as a clerk, have you seen an increase in juvenile offenders? If yes, why do you think this is occurring? There has actually been less cases than when I first started. However, the offenders have become younger in age. This is primarily because of broken homes and dad's who don't care enough to show up when their children need them( 90% of the time only the mother's come to court). 3.What are the most common laws broken by juvenile offenders? Most common laws are domestic abuse, illegal possession of drugs,cigarettes and petty larceny. 4.What type of environment do these teens typically come from? They come from broken homes where they don't have the proper support system to make sure they stay out of trouble. 5.What is your stance on juvenile offenders being tried as adults? At a certain age they need to be held responsible for their actions because they can tell the difference between right and wrong. For example when it comes to murder. Thats something everyone knows is wrong.
11: 6.How many cases have you handled dealing with juvenile offenders? When I first began this job in 2008 we had a case load of about 160 juvenile cases. Last year this number dropped to about 120 and we currently have a case load of 40. 7.Of those cases how many juveniles were tried as adults? None of the current 40 cases were tried as adults. 8.How many of the offenders had priors? About 1/4 out of the 40 cases had prior offenses. 9.How severe of a sentences can they receive? They aren't sent to either a detention facility where they can spend either a week, month or years at or be sent back home depending on the crime committed. 10.Is Oklahoma known for punishing juvenile offenders as adults? No. Oklahoma courts try to find alternative means to punish juvenile offenders. 11.What type of parenting is common in juvenile cases? There is a lack of stable parentings guidance in the home. Often times parent's typically are past offenders and are serving their own sentences when their children are facing trial.
12: 12.What has the state done in order to cut back on these types of offenses? The state isn't doing anything different. 13.Do these offenders exhibit possible social disorders that cause them to commit said crimes? What are they? There have been more cases of sexual offenses in the past few years. Mental health is a common thing to see in cases with juveniles who are acting out in this manner. 14.What is our juvenile delinquency rate? There isn't a set rate but there times when cases can go on for years and the juveniles time out. When they time out that means they have to go on trial in adult court because they are no longer considered to be a juvenile. 15.How does that compare to other states? When compared to other states Oklahoma is doing a good job of keeping cases down but that doesn't mean crimes aren't happening. Parents might not be reporting them, kids might be getting smarter about hiding from the law.
13: Name: Vicki Rylant Occupation: Payne County Deputy Clerk Years Employed: 7 Quote: " We would have less kids going through the system if parent's would play a bigger part in raising their children. They need positive role models." | MEET VICKI RYLANT
14: Prisoner at Fourteen: Lionel Tate's Verdict | When we are roughing housing with our friends we often forget to take into account our own strength. This often results in someone getting hurt not due to malicious acts but by unrestrained strength.Lionel Tate, was a fourteen year old boy living in the state of Florida, who fell prey to the repercussion of unrestrained strength. When he was twelve years old he ending up killing his six year old playmate when they were rough housing like any friends would. During the hearing countless of people came up and spoke on his behalf in hopes of deterring the judge from giving him the life sentence. However, even though the judge
15: was moved by the countless outpour of love for the young man, he was concerned over the lack of attention the death of the little girl was getting. Judge Lazarus deemed Lionel would spend life in prison. The jury had reached unanimous consent which helped the judge feel that his verdict of a life sentence was validated. Lionel became the youngest person in modern United States history to be sentenced to life in prison. His trial invoked the nation to question " When is punishing juveniles considered to be cruel and usual? How far is too far?". During the trial his mother kept saying that she wished she could bring the little girl back but since she can't then she has to fight for her son to have a chance at life. This trial serves as a clear example of the backlash trying juvenile's as adults has not only on the family but also the community. Lionel Tate wasn't a bad kid. He was trying to have fun with his friend and ended up making a mistake. Now, this young man will have to pay the price for that unfortunate incident. | "Please, don't give this child life..."
16: My Response | When I first started this project I didn't really have an idea of how much juvenile offenders have grown in the United States. I am just blown away with how much the parents rely on the government to clean up the mess their children create because they didn't raise them right. I mean I know that there are other causes that lead to delinquent behavior but if parents are playing an active role in their child(s) life than the number of teens in jail would drastically decrease. It makes me so upset to see studies that show states dealing with the problem of juveniles breaking the law by making them face incarceration with those who have done worse crimes and to top it off, most of the teens haven't even fully gone through puberty. I can understand making someone pay for the crime, but taking a 14 year old and sentencing him to life in prison isn't going to help teach him a lesson. All the time spent making his life miserable in jail will only cause teens his age to be more hardened to the law not obedient. I have friends who have no respect for the authority figures that are in place to protect us because they feel that since they are minors they will face even more discrimination for mistakes made as youths.
17: I come from a family the has taught me to respect my authority no matter what. But over the years my father has began to tell me that there is a certain line that authority figures should never cross or they risk losing their hold over you. If I ever feel as though I am being discriminated or profiled because I am an African-American, than in my father's eyes I have every right to stand up for myself. This same sense of pride in myself is one that a lot of juveniles fall prey to. They end up making mistakes because they react while still angry. I don't think they should have to face life in prison for the actions they committed when they were still growing up and trying to figure out what life really is. Nobody has the right to deem someone beyond the help of redemption and therefore cut their life's aspirations short.
18: Work Cited | "Bulletin Report." FBI. Web. 25 Apr. 2012.
19: "Juvenile Arrest Rates." Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
20: Picture Cited | Anderson, Jan H. “Sad Looking Boy Behind Bars”. Photograph. Webshots. Emotion Pictures. Web. 23 April. 2012. “Child Maltreatment”. Black and White Photographs. Family Matters. EBSCO. Web. 24 April.2012. Sundberg, Ingrid. “Six Limitations of the First Person POV”. Photograph. Webshots. Ingrid’s Notes. 17 March, 2011. Web. 23 April. 2012. Morgan, Rod. "Cover Up". 2010. Great Britain. New Statesman. Web. 24 April. 2012.
21: About the Author | Alfa Abame was born in Ethiopia in 1993 and immigrated with her family in the 1990s. She is an avid reader, loves to go running and spend time volunteering. Ms. Abame's goal in life is to leave the world better than she found it. She wrote this book for her English IV class senior research project in hopes of better understanding the pros and cons of trying juveniles as adults. Alfa will be attending SWOSU in the fall to obtain a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.