The definitions of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood have been changing regularly in relation to the criminal justice system. Individuals considered as children and adolescents are tried as juveniles in the event they commit criminal offenses. Over the years there have been reforms in the criminal justice system geared towards reviewing the punishment for juvenile offenders. Policy makers have been at the forefront agitating for the adoption of moderate policies in relation to the treatment of juvenile offenders in the criminal justice system (Mays & Winfree, 2013). Treating juvenile criminal offenders as adult offenders is an expensive undertaking and it has serious economic ramifications on State governments. In an effort to cut down on rehabilitation costs of juvenile offenders State governments have approved funding for community-based treatment programs to acts as alternatives for the institutionalization of juvenile offenders. Additionally, in a bid to prevent the treatment of juvenile offenders as adults State governments have introduced procedural protection for juvenile offenders.
This initiative is intended to halt their treatment as adult offenders on grounds of developmental immaturity (Mays & Winfree, 2013). However, it is worth noting that the youth crime policy pursued by the government is informed by the incidence rate of crime. From a social science perspective, it has been constantly argued that adolescents are immature in the sense that they lack the mental and emotional maturity associated with adults (Scott & Steinberg, 2008). Therefore, they are likely to make irresponsible decisions since they are not aware of the ramifications of their personal choices. Juvenile offenders should be enrolled into rehabilitative programs aimed at giving them a second chance. It has also been established that the recidivism rate of adolescent offenders tried as adults are relatively higher when compared to that of those tried as juvenile offenders. An individual’s culpability is determined by the availability of evidence.
If the evidence presented before the court meets the threshold of conviction the accused person is sentenced according to the law. In selective instances shifting perspectives when considering an individual’s culpability is allowed (Steinberg, 2013). For instance, when an adolescent and an adult are tried as accomplices in a capital offense they should not treat equally. The scope of mental and emotional maturity of adolescents is lower than that of an adult. Additionally, it cannot be dismissed that the adolescent was acting under the influence of the adult. Young individuals are often unaware of the consequences of their actions after engaging in irresponsible behaviors.
When a young individual is accused of committing a severe criminal offense shifting perspectives is no longer a viable option. For instance, in the event a young individual is accused of murder the law must take its course and justice must prevail in the long run. Shifting perspectives could provide the wrong precedence and be used to justify acquittal and passing of lighter sentences on young individuals who have committed capital offenses (Steinberg, 2013).
In this regard, individuals who have been accused of engaging in deviant behaviors that violate existing societal codes should not be subjected to preferential treatment. The viewpoint of shifting perspectives is narrow-minded since it only advances the interest of the person who committed the criminal offense and overlooks the plight of the victim. Therefore, young individuals accused of committing capital offenses should be prosecuted and sentenced accordingly. Sentencing provides an avenue that will facilitate their rehabilitation until they deemed fit to return back to society.