Numerous young law violators—predominantly those under the age of 14, must not be regarded as appropriate subjects for criminal prosecution. The Mitigating Circumstances The age of the defendant at the time of the crime should be considered as a mitigating factor to take into account in charging and trying young offenders less than 14 years old who committed grave and serious crimes. Mitigating factors or circumstances do not necessarily justify or excuse an offense of a crime committed.
However, it may reduce and trim down the ruthlessness of a charge bestowed upon a young law violator. Correspondingly, the recognition and credit of mitigating circumstances to diminish the harm and damage done does not necessarily mean and imply that the harms and damages were not suffered. In this case, the harms and damages have only been ameliorated to some extent. In such criminal cases where the death penalty may be imposed on youth offenders, the Supreme Court has held certain conditions to ponder upon by the juries.
Under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, juries must be instructed that they may consider mitigating circumstances or factors such as the defendant’s youth, his mental capacity, or if there are signs of childhood abuse so that they may reach a well-reasoned and moral sentencing decision. The cases of juvenile offenders under the age of 14 should be treated as a sensitive matter. When making a decision as to whether a minor should be tried and charged as an adult or a juvenile, the gravity, seriousness and nature of the crime should be the most overwhelming consideration of the juries and of the prosecutors.
Young Offenders’ Tender Age Young offenders under 14 years of age do not—in fact, they cannot—think, comprehend, and feel things discussed in a criminal court like adults. Juvenile law violators may be capable to execute and commit the same criminal acts done by adults. However, many of these adolescents are not necessarily emotionally or cognitively established and mature enough to comprehend the full ramifications or consequences of their actions completely. They will not have an idea of what will transpire and be revealed to them once they have already entered the legal system.
Children are definitely dissimilar from adults in one too many ways. The justice system should reflect and reconsider these apparent differences. In recognizing that young people may be less blameworthy culpable than adults and may be more amenable and willing to change, law reformers acknowledged the society’s innate responsibility to protect children’s rights and welfare. Today, many reformers and institutions have created a system whose central tenets were not punishment and retribution of young criminals, but were more inclined towards their protection, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Adolescents who are roughly the sensitive years are experiencing a period of rapid and dramatic change that varies not only among individuals, but also along different dimensions within any given individual (Laurence Steinberg, 2003). A 14-year-old offender, for example, may be quite mature in appearance, but is actually emotionally unstable a child. Another offender may be able to think ahead and is intellectually advanced compared with his or her peers of the same age, but is delayed and left far behind in the aspect of social and communication skills.
A teenager may act like an adult one day and be very impulsive the next, or mature in one social setting and impulsive in another. The Effect of Treating Young Offenders as Adults There is a negative result of trying and charging individuals under the age of 14. The widespread enactment and endorsement of the legislation enhancing juvenile exposure to criminal prosecution is a direct response to reported escalations of juvenile violent crime in recent years. Trying juveniles as adults and sending them to adult prisons only allows their further knowledge and education regarding criminal activity.
They become more exposed to and vulnerable of criminal activities than ever in this kind of situation. Thus, the rate of recidivism on juveniles tried and charges as adults would be expected to increase and be higher compared with the youths who committed similar crimes but were not tried and sentenced like adult law violators. Juvenile waiver and transfer provisions have a tremendous impact on a young person's life. Prosecution in criminal court exposes juveniles to the same penalties as adults. They may face a life or death sentence, incarceration in State prison, and a permanent criminal record with attendant disabilities.
Furthermore, as mentioned previously, studies suggest that “juveniles criminally prosecuted and incarcerated in an adult facility have the same or higher recidivism rates (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). ” Other studies have also discovered that youth imprisoned in adult institutions “are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than their counterparts in a juvenile facility.
Juvenile Transfer to Criminal Court. 1996. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 20 February 2008. <http://ojjdp. ncjrs. org/PUBS/reform/ch2_j. html>. Juvenile Justice/The Real Deal. 2000. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. 20 February 2008. <http://www. yale. edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2000/2/00. 02. 06. x. html>. Steinberg, Laurence. 2003. Juveniles on Trial MacArthur Foundation Study Calls Competency into Question. American Bar Association. http://www. abanet. org/crimjust/juvjus/cjmag/18-3ls. html