The idea of youth crime has fascinated Americans more than any other culture. There is always concern over how to reduce it. For some it seems to be a preoccupation. They are always looking at the crimes committed by teens and preteens and wailing about how crime among the youth is getter worse by the year. They also fear younger and younger criminals. To defeat the crimes of young criminals they have been demanding that teens and preteens stand trial as adults. They demand that these kids not only be tried as adults but be given prison sentences as though they were adults.
The problem is that these kids have indeed committed adult type crimes. Some of these crimes can be truly nasty. This is when people often forget these are just kids. How young is too young to be tried as an adult? The answer is as complicated as it is easy.
There is a time when a child becomes an adult. That time can be defined by certain things, certain rites of passage. These rites begin at about the age of 16 when a young person can get a driver’s license. Upon reaching the age of 18 a person can then vote for a President and they can join the army and legally kill people. The final rite of passage into what we know as adulthood is the age of 21. This age allows one to legally drink.
The rites of passage of the average American teen take a total of 5 years. This is 5 long years of trial and error. 5 years of learning and growing. The law requires one reach the age of 18 before one can truly be considered an adult. Prior to that, the law does not recognize teens and preteens as adults. So why put children on trial as adults if the law doesn’t recognize then as such?
The answer has to do with fear. Some people have developed a fear of crime. Regardless of the overall facts about how crime rates have fallen there is still a fear, an irrational fear that the world is a very dangerous place even if facts show otherwise. So in an attempt to placate those fears they want to everyone spend as much time behind bars as possible; this includes children.
Politicians are also at fault here. How often have you heard some politician talking about getting tough on crime? The United States is so tough on crime that it has more people behind bars than any other country in the world. So America is spending far more to keep people behind bars than it spends to educate its children. Perhaps, instead of trying children as adults we try them as children and use the time they are sentenced to as kids to educate and take care of any psychological problems the child might have. What happens then is you have someone who is educated and ready to contribute to society rather than taking from society for the rest of their lives.
Kids as young as 10 and 12 have been tried as adults. This is the only time that someone under the age of 18 can ever be considered an adult. So at what age should we charge a youngster as an adult? If it’s OK for the government to recognize someone as an adult at 18 then perhaps we should only try 18 year olds as adults. Otherwise they are kids as seen in the eyes of the law.
If a 10 year old has been charged as an adult how you should we? What age should we stop at? 10? 8? 7? Think about it.