Once an Adult, Always an Adult

Prison is an institution that society creates to confine people convicted of breaking the law. It is designed to be an institution that deters people from committing crimes, punishes and rehabilitates criminals, and protects the public by keeping dangerous offenders off the streets. It is important to study this social organization to gauge whether the manner in which society deals with criminality via prison is effective. In light of the evidence, it appears that the objectives of imprisonment do not match their desired effects.Prison has an economic basis and punishes crimes that are often committed by the poor. In many respects, the real criminality is committed by society, which criminalizes the poor by not allowing them the opportunity toward self-empowerment. Moreover, prison subtly supports established institutions, because by focusing on individual wrongs, it takes away attention from the inequity in social institutions. The issue of incarcerating juveniles with adults is a controversial one for the criminal justice system in the United States.Trying youths as adults opened the door to imposing the punishment of life without possibility of parole in penitentiary for adults in 42 states – 27 of which have mandatory sentencing policies that do not allow any judicial discretion. Many states have a minimum age at which this sentence can be given (for example, ages range from 12 years in Colorado to 16 in California), however in 14 states, there is no minimum age at which juveniles can be tried as adults and sent to prison for natural life Michigan is one of them.Although the great majority of the American public views juvenile crime as a serious problem, and supports strong punishment for violent crimes, a substantial portion of the public believes in less harsh treatment for first-time offenders. Moreover, polls in several states indicate that large majorities support prevention programs and early intervention efforts, and support restorative justice programs over prison time for non-violent youthful offenders because they are not comfortable with incarcerating juveniles with adults.It is sadly unsurprising that in today’s youth justice system, male individuals from ethnic minorities receive the harshest punishment, and are often seen as impossible to rehabilitate, or undeserving of the second or third chances that other demographic groups of troubled youth receive. Under the law, all young people between the ages of 8 and 17 or 18 are equally deserving of rehabilitative efforts, and are equally capable of a law-abiding adulthood. Unfortunately, the subjectivity inherent in the justice system renders this equality null and void, dealing out harsh sentences for older teenagers even when they are first-time offenders.The current juvenile justice process may be unconstitutional, and it definitely does not reduce crime or enhance public safety. Should teenagers be incarcerated with adults? The laws allowing so many children to be tried as adults and sent to prison need to be repealed. We need to follow the examples of progressive states like Minnesota and New Mexico and return decisions about juvenile jurisdiction to the judiciary, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence.Most importantly, the legal profession needs to overcome its fear of scientific data and base policy on facts, not anecdotal babblings. But what does the evidence show? The laws were passed without any scientific evidence, at times when statistics clearly showed a reduction in juvenile crime, including violent crime. The laws were knee-jerk reactions passed by grandstanding lawmakers in response to a very few violent tourist or school shootings, in total disregard to the evidence showing that these get-tough changes were counterproductive to protecting the public safety.The evidence also shows higher recidivism with advanced criminal behavior, children subjected to regular sexual and physical abuse and a higher rate of suicides. These outcomes reflect decisions based on faulty logic and violations of child rights and having to live with adults that have committed real hard core crimes. In general, public opinion supports the belief that juveniles can be rehabilitated. In a national survey of attitudes toward juvenile crime, it was founded that the public does not support the punishment paradigm for youth.In their study, 78 percent of those surveyed favored a treatment and rehabilitative approach to delinquency. In addition, found that California residents would rather youths be sentenced to specialized treatment or counseling instead of harsh punishments such as confinement. Together, their conclusions suggest that youths have not yet become hardened criminals, and thus have rehabilitative capabilities. The advisory committee explored policy and administrative options identified by committee members, CAA staff, and the project consultants.Committee members were encouraged to brainstorm and debate the positive and negative aspects of each option, including the impact of possible changes on: in Fairness/Due process, Fiscal and staffing resources, Rehabilitation versus Punishment, Community protection, Over-representation of minority youth, and Competency of youth. This process resulted in the following list of options followed by an overview of the option and its pros and cons.1. Allow reverse waiver (remand) from the adult criminal court to the juvenile court on either party’s motion. . Allow blended sentences. 3. Allow/mandate juvenile disposition, if conviction in criminal court is of non wavered offense. 4. Eliminate / review statutory scheme for mandatory imprisonment for juveniles transferred to adult court. 5. Amend ARS 13-501. B. If the kid is at least fourteen and commits a crime the county attorney may file in adult court for any felony charge if it involves the discharge, use or threatening exhibition or a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. 6. Create a Youthful Offender type system for 18-21, 23 or 25 year olds. 7. Improve/enhance services and improve transitions for juveniles under the age of 18 in and leaving jails and prisons, especially as it relates to securing mental health care, housing, education and employment opportunities. 8. Provide training statewide to defense attorneys and prosecutors related to transfer issues. All of these issues and recommendations is something that really needs to be considered in order for the juvenile to rehabilitate themselves and not reenter the judicial system.The study of the American penitentiary system reveals much about the social structure of the country, where there is a statistically disproportionate number of minorities found within jails and correctional facilities alike. For example, the Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC: 2002) notes that: “One third of African- American males between the ages of 18 and 25 in the United States are either under correctional supervision or in jail or prison. ” And that: “There was a three fold increase in African-American juveniles held in custody between 1979 and 1995.For Hispanic juveniles there was more than a four fold increase. In 1999 nearly 1. 5 million delinquency cases were handled by juvenile courts. Virtually every one of those cases had contact with a probation officer at some point. Probation departments screened most of those cases to determine how they should be processed, made detention decisions on some of them, prepared investigation reports on most of them, provided supervision to over a half million of them, and delivered aftercare services to many of the juveniles released from institutions.Since probation has been the overwhelming dispositional choice of juvenile and family court judges. Within Constitutional limits, amend A. R. S. §13-501. B. regarding juveniles prosecuted as adults to allow more cases to be assessed through judicial waiver hearings rather than permitting transfer decisions to be made solely by prosecutors (prosecutorial discretion) without the consideration of the juvenile’s developmental and psychological profile. Amendments should include: Limiting prosecutorial discretion to cases involving violent offenses.However, prosecutorial discretion to cases of juveniles age 15 and older, rather than age 14 and older. This would parallel the constitutional provision for mandatory transfer. Changing the definition of chronic offenders to limit the class and type of felonies that could be counted as chronic. Required cases of 14-16 year olds charged with sexual offenses (excluding forcible sexual assault) to be assessed through a judicial waiver hearing, thus, permitting psychological exams and juvenile sex offender assessments prior making a decision on transfer.Pass legislation to allow for Criminal-Inclusive Blended Sentencing that permits the criminal court to impose both juvenile and adult correctional sentences on juveniles prosecuted and convicted in criminal court. This allows the adult sanction to be suspended, but also allows it to be reinstated if the terms of the juvenile sanction are violated and revoked. Study the criminal sentencing ranges and allow more flexibility to judges when sentencing juveniles convicted as adults. The sentencing ranges should allow more flexibility based on a juvenile’s developmental and psychological profile and needs.Support and follow the work of the Sentencing Commission, established by legislation passed in 2002, as it evaluates sentences for juveniles prosecuted as adults. Create inter-agency probation units in all city, states, and counties to integrate juvenile and adult probation services for juvenile offenders prosecuted as adults and under the age of 18; include local behavioral health and developmental disabilities service systems, if possible; share staff, pool resources, provide training on youth development issues and needs, etc.Provide additional fiscal resources, but not at the expense of the juvenile justice system, to support sufficient and effective programming for juveniles in the adult criminal justice system as allowed through A. R. S. §13-921. All of these areas of research represent crucial information currently being ignored by Congress. The present research bodes poorly for the large numbers of juveniles who will be transferred to adult prisons, or the children who will be jailed alongside adults under proposed legislation.All 50 states have laws on the books allowing juveniles to be tried as adults. Over the past 2 years, 42 states have toughened those laws. Clearly, this is not an area which requires urgent Federal intervention to spur the states into action. However, what is needed is encouragement of the local and state probation/correctional programs to follow up with possible federal initiatives to enhance resources for transitional services for serious and violent juvenile offenders.Encourage the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council to provide continuing legal education (CLE) training on systems issues and available options regarding prosecuting juveniles. The training could include decision-making criteria, youth development and competency issues, working with prosecutors to initiate a remand back to juvenile court when most appropriate, and sentencing issues. Encourage state and county authorities to improve the uniform tracking of the number of cases of juveniles prosecuted in the adult system, the sentences imposed and served, with the outcomes for youth.