There are those who argue that adult courts and detention centers are not equipped to handle the mitigating issues associated with juvenile offenders, such as mental illness, living in an environment where drug use is rampant and the absence of positive role models. The practice is also condemned by noted international organizations that believe that treating child criminals as adults is legally and morally wrong. While the crime rate in juvenile crime rate did drop after courts adopted trying children under adult laws, other problems arose–most notably the surge of high-profile school shootings.
These issues continue to be debated, as society wrestles with what is a daunting and ongoing dilemma for the benefit of an ongoing, free and safe society. In assessing whether trying children as adults, there are valid arguments against the practice and valid arguments for the practice — in all cases, there are counter-arguments that are valid for consideration. Each argument has its flaws, but in the end, the case can be made that the practice does more harm to the children and society than good.
Many argue that trying children as juveniles, as opposed to adults, ignores the fact that, perhaps, the child is not completely to blame for his actions. In Shirley Dicks’ book, Young Blood: Juvenile Justice and the Death Penalty, she gives a hypothetical illustration that shows how adults, as well as the government, may be the cause for a child becoming violent. Her theory is that blame is of paramount importance if justice is to be served. The scenario is of a child, who at a young age, begins to play with guns. At one point, the child may point the gun at his parents and exclaim, “bang, bang, you’re dead.” Instead of pointing out that such behavior is unacceptable, the parents think that the child’s actions are cute. Thus, reinforcing the behavior. As the child gets older, this pattern of violent behavior continues. Upon entering the military, he is taught nothing but how to kill.
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