Juveniles are young people under the age of 18 years and thus at their development stages. During the adolescent stages of development, a person is usually psychologically unstable and in the process of establishing himself or herself emotionally. Also during this stage, a person is usually vulnerable to effects of peer pressure and mostly tends to act on impulse without considering the consequences of his or her action. During this development stage, a person also tends to rationalize everything due to emotional instability.
Due to this psychological and emotional development process, juveniles require guidance and counseling from their superiors or other authorities. During this stage, most of the juveniles may commit either major or minor crimes which are greatly influenced by the development process or influence from peer pressure. Subjecting such a juvenile to tough punishment would hinder effective development and would also lead to psychological and emotional development impairment.
Due to these negative impacts on the lives of juveniles, the punishment on them should not be made tougher and juveniles should not be tried in a similar manner as the adults (Ribner, 2002). Argument for tougher juvenile punishments Different individuals as well as organizations have different views on the issue of increasing the punishment imposed on juveniles. While some support such debates, others are opposed to this idea terming it as destructive to not only the young people but also to the society at large.
Some of the arguments put forward in favor of tougher juvenile punishments include reduction of juvenile crimes and deterrence of juvenile crimes. One of the major reasons or contributory factors which have led to increase of juvenile crimes is the less stringent laws regarding juvenile prosecution and punishments. Most of the juveniles who commit major crimes do this intentionally as they are aware of the protective laws in the United States as well as most of other countries. Less harsh punishments has also encouraged juvenile to commit major criminal offenses like killing and major robberies.
Tough measures or punishment may include charging juvenile criminal offenders in adult courts and this would mean subjecting them to the same judgment subjected to the adults. This would help institute a sense of responsibility in the juveniles thus reducing the number of juvenile crimes. Just as the less stringent and protective juvenile laws has led to an increase in juvenile crimes, harsh and more stringent laws and punishment would help in reducing criminal acts by juveniles (Burrow, 2008).
Tough punishment measures on juvenile offenders should also be implemented so as to act as a deterrence factor to other juveniles. One of the major reasons which make young people to commit crime is due to peer influence. The current laws protect juvenile offenders from being subjected to tough punishments. As such, when one young person commits a crime and pleads for leniency and other juvenile remedies and they are granted on the basis of their age, other young people are inspired to commit such or even worse criminal acts.
To help in deterring such occurrences, young criminal offenders should be subjected to tough punishments like term jails. This would be an effective tool of not only deterring potential criminal offenders but it would also help in reducing cases of juvenile criminals (O’Connor & Treat, 1996). Another advantage of imposing tough punishment on juveniles is that it would lead to and equitable justice for the offended persons or families. In the recent past, more cases of murder and brutal crimes committed by juveniles have increased in the United States as well as other parts of the world.
Due to the lenient laws governing juvenile crimes, the aggrieved families or persons ends up never getting equitable justice for wrongs committed against them. Young persons who commit major criminal acts are usually taken to rehabilitation centers even though some of them are repeat offenders who are sometimes beyond rehabilitation level. Such persons only end up causing more harm to the society even after he has been out of rehabilitation making juvenile court inappropriate for juvenile criminal offenders.
Imposing heavy punishment would help relieve the aggrieved parties while at the same time acting as a real life changing experience unlike the rehabilitation centers (Fass & Pi, 2002). Increase in the number of gangs consisting mostly of the juveniles is also a reason why juvenile punishment should be made tougher. In California for example, there are estimated street gang population is more than 330,000 young persons. These street gangs cause unrest and chaos in areas where they operate. Purporting to protect their neighborhood, street gangs ends up causing more harm which at times results to deaths.
As per se, such felonies are just considered as strikes with punishment being dependent on the number of strikes an individual has. Such less stringent measures have led to the increase in the number of gangs. To cub this problem, tougher punishments should be imposed on the young offenders (O’Connor & Treat, 1996). Arguments against tougher measures on juveniles As outlined above, juveniles are in their development stages and thus are psychologically and emotionally unstable. During this stage, young persons are in the process of establishing themselves emotionally and psychologically.
At this stage, they are easily provoked and usually act on impulse. At this stage also, a person is vulnerable of committing major criminal acts unintentionally or without thinking about the consequences of his or her actions. Subjecting such a person to harsh or tough punishment like taking him to the adult jails may lead to permanent destruction of their lives. Most of the young criminal offenders are first time offenders who have emotional or psychological problems due to broken families and/ or suffer from low self esteem.
Such young persons require guidance and counseling to help them regain and reshape their lives. Harsh punishment would only lead to acceleration of the psychological instability which may make the person commit worse crimes than the first crime. As such, tough punishments do not help in ensuring deterrence or bringing about reform of the persons behavior (Bergman, Berman-Barrett & Berman, 2008). One of the tough measures taken by different states is that of transfers of juvenile cases to adult systems. This means that a juvenile can be subjected to the same punishment as an adult of similar cases.
Adult jails are crowded by all forms of criminals some of whom are gangsters. Subjecting a juvenile to this kind of a lifestyle would instead of reforming him destroy him and even introduce him or her to more dangerous criminal activities once outside the jail. In most of the jails there are organized groups of gangs made up of different individuals with different criminal records. A juvenile subjected to such an environment is forced to join one group so as to help him or her survive the harsh conditions of jail which may range from physical abuse to sexual abuse.
Affiliation with such groups of hardened criminals would make the juvenile engage in more dangerous criminal activities in future. Also, such a person is trained by other inmates concerning crimes and once outside the jail, such persons form organized terror gangs which are more dangerous. As such instead of reducing crime, tougher measures would lead to more complicated and high tech robberies and criminal acts (Fass & Pi, 2002). One argument of those supporting tougher measurers on juvenile offenders is that it would lead to deterrence of crimes.
However, studies carried out on states where tough measures have already been effected reveal that the number of juvenile cases has not reduced. Also, tendencies of juveniles who are subjected to harsh punishment to reform are low unlike those who are taken to rehabilitation centers for the juveniles. Instead of reforming, those subjected to harsh conditions tend to commit more crime than those subjected to rehabilitation centers. The aim of imposing punishment on offenders is to ensure that they reform. Instead of reforming, juveniles subjected to harsh punishments become more hardened and commit more criminal activities.
Tougher punishments are thus not essential reforming and deterrence tools and should not be implemented (Redding, 2003). Juveniles who have been tried on adult court have been to have higher tendencies of recidivism. This is mostly associated by the stigmatization which goes with such convictions on juveniles and also due to the learnt criminal mores while in adult prisons. This may also be caused by lack of family support which is evident in adult systems and also due to less focus on possibilities of rehabilitation.
Convictions of felony also lead to loss of some of the civil rights and also state privileges which reduces employment opportunities as well as reintegration in the community. This creates a feeling of hopelessness in the young persons thus leading to wasted potential. Juveniles who are allayed in an adult court feel offended and a sense of injustice committed towards against them. This leads to resentment and defiance behavior which may harden or lead to emergence of a concept of criminality in a juvenile. This would only lead to re-offending by the same juvenile.
In a study conducted on ex-convicted juveniles revealed that most of the time that these juveniles spent in the prisons was spent being trained criminal behaviors by older adults. As such, transferring juveniles to adult systems as a form of tough measures is more harmful to them and their future lives than taking them to a juvenile system where they may obtain rehabilitation (Howell, 2008). Juvenile transfer is one of the major tough measures that is being employed in most of the states. However, this method is ineffective in that it is attributed to the rising cases of juvenile suicide in the United States.
Juveniles subjected to adult system always end up being harassed and assaulted while in prison either by their fellow prisoners or even by the prison staff. Due to their age they are mostly victimized thus becoming more fearful even after incarceration period is over. Juveniles who are subjected to either physical or sexual abuse while serving at the adult prisons tend to commit suicide later in their lives. On the contrary, such occurrences are rare in juvenile systems and those subjected to it have less tendencies of committing suicide in their later lives.
Also, juveniles under the juvenile system tend to reform easily without negative effects like assaults or victimization. Subjecting juveniles to adult system ruins their lives and thus should not be advocated nor implemented (Ribner, 2002). The states have a responsibility of protecting and enhancing the lives of young persons to ensure that they become responsible individuals in the future. Transfer is one of the main approaches being employed by most of the courts in punishing juveniles. However, as noted above, this alternative has negative impacts on the lives of the young persons.
It may make the juveniles become violent in the future due to the kind of torture they are subjected to while in adult incarceration. Also, their chances of becoming responsible citizens are reduced especially due to cancellation of some civil rights as well as privileges. Even after they reform, chances of getting a decent job for these juveniles are reduced pushing them to commit more crime. Hopelessness, shame and discrimination associated with incarceration in adult prisons may lead to suicide or homicide tendencies in juveniles.
As such, such tough measures should not be undertaken since they are detrimental to the lives of the juveniles (Redding, 2003). Conclusion The debate on the viability of tough measures towards juvenile offenders continues to spark different reactions from different sectors as well as individuals. However, as discussed above, some of the measures taken to make the punishments tougher lead to negative or adverse effects on the lives of these young persons. Any form of punishment that leads to negative impact on the life of a juvenile should not be imposed on them. Reference: Bergman, P.
, Berman-Barrett, S. J. & Berman, S. J. (2008): The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System. ISBN 1413308945, Published by Nolo Burrow, J. (2008): Reverse Waiver and the Effects of Legal, Statutory, and Secondary Legal Factors on Sentencing Outcomes for Juvenile Offenders. Journal article of Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 54 Fass, S. M. & Pi, C. (2002): Getting Tough on Juvenile Crime: An Analysis of Costs and Benefits. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 39 Howell, J. C. (2008): Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework.
ISBN 1412956382, Published by Sage Pubns O’Connor, J. M. & Treat, L. K. (1996): Getting smart about getting tough: juvenile justice and the possibility of progressive reform. Journal article of American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 33 Redding, R. E. (2003): The Effects of Adjudicating and Sentencing Juveniles As Adults. Journal article of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, Vol. 1 Ribner, N. (2002): The California School of Professional Psychology Handbook of Juvenile Forensic Psychology. ISBN 0787959480, Published by John Wiley and Sons