Is it justifiable to punish juvenile offenders who have committed felonies the same way as adult offenders?
In regards to punishment, the treatment of juvenile offender as adults is not only justified, but also necessary. This is because in some cases, the criminal acts committed by these young offenders are so egregious that the only way to assure justice is by trying them as adults. In the United States, some states have adopted the “automatic transfer” laws (Steinberg, Cauffman 1999). These laws transfer the juvenile cases to adult criminal courts.
There are two requirements that must be met before the cases can be transferred: 1) the offender must be a certain age (16 in most states) and 2) the offense committed is a serious or violent offense such as murder or armed robbery (Steinberg et al., 1999). “The justice system presumes that those defendants who are found guilty are responsible for their own actions and should be held accountable and punished accordingly.” (Steinberg et al., 1999). Most sixteen year olds are mature enough to understand that they are responsible for their actions and that any serious wrongdoing could have extreme consequences. Intent is an element that is required in most felony crimes because it shows malice and that a person is aware of his actions. When young juveniles commit a crime such as rape or murder with intent to deliberately cause harm on their victim, the adult courts are the only avenues to insure justice. For example, Nehemiah Griego, then 15, shot his mother in the head because she “annoyed him” at their home (Boetel, 2015). He then went downstairs and shot his younger siblings and father to death. This crime is extremely atrocious and unimaginable. The adult courts would be a better venue for this case because the punishments are more severe than juvenile courts. However, adult courts also have their advantages in that the defendants is protected by the constitution and that the juries are more likely to sympathize with the younger offenders. All in all, the treatment of juvenile offenders as adults when it comes to serious felonies is justified.
Boetel, R., (2015). Guilty Plea in Family Deaths, Albuquerque Journal http://www.abqjournal.com/660928/nehemiah-griego-pleads-guilty-to-fatally-shooting-his-family.html
Cauffman, E., Steinberg L., (1999). A Developmental Perspectvie on Serious Juvenile Crime: When Should Juveniles Be Treated as Adults?, Federal Probation.