Imagine a boy in his youth, in such a hostile environment such as prison, surrounded by abusive, dangerous adults, where the child is absolutely helpless. How could anyone wish this kind of horror and danger upon a youth? This debate is causing feuds all across the U.S. of whether or not juveniles should be tried as adults in the court of law. Juveniles, being below the age of eighteen, obviously are not adults, however are capable of committing crimes equal to crimes committed by adults. Some find that these criminals should be punished in the same harshness and rigor as adults’ crimes would be. However, many also find that minors committing these acts are naive and are not prepared for the abusive life of prison. When in a situation where one can make a good choice or a bad choice, minors may not make the smarter choice because their lack of judgment and their undeveloped brain. Therefore, minors do not deserve the harshness of prison, but instead deserve a chance to learn from their mistakes in places such as rehabilitation centers.
Say a man who is thirty years old kills another man for no reason whatsoever, a typical homicide. He could be looking at twenty-five years to life in prison. This much punishment is given because it is fair to say that a man of this age should have good enough judgment and responsibility not to do such a thing. However, because he does not have that judgment, he is dangerous and should be contained to prevent further conflict. Now, say a fifteen-year-old boy commits the same crime. If he is tried as an adult, he could earn the same punishment the man was given. If he is tried as a minor as he ought to be, he could be given several years in a juvenile detention center and a period of rehabilitation following it. The difference is that when he goes to rehabilitation, he has a chance to learn why what he did was wrong and gain good judgment while his brain is still developing.
It is absolutely vital to send minors to detention centers and rehabilitation instead of prison for three reasons. The first being that because the brain is so young and undeveloped, it does not always process what actions it is going through, therefore it is not always intent on committing a crime. A minor may go into a situation where one of their friends tells them to do something because it is fun. First instinct is to trust your friend, so they may take a candy bar. As the friend incrementally gets them to do more, they do not see the consequences, never being able to grasp the terror of what they end up doing. Secondly, the easiest time to shape and mold how a brain works is within the period of adolescence. So if one lacks wisdom and judgment to make important decisions, these are the only years in which they can still gain the insight into wise thinking that prevents further incidents. The third reason is that when someone so young and naive enters a dangerous place of hate such as prison, it has the farthest thing from a positive impact on their demeanor. Young prison-goers witness abuse first hand, which in turn makes them abusive. More often than not, after a criminal comes out of prison, they return to their law-breaking ways and end up back in prison. Prison for juveniles ultimately defeats the purpose of punishment.
“The fact is, kids are not adults. Their brains are wired differently. They don’t think things out the way we do,” says Mike Hendricks, an author who shares my opinion (1). It is clear that it is unjust for juveniles to be punished in such a manner, without a proper chance to learn their lesson. One who does not agree with me would say that minors committing severe crimes should immediately be sent to prison. I find this view on trying minors as adults not only inhumane, but also illogical. For a person so young, naive, and intellectually undeveloped, prison is a place of unseen horrors. One writer who agrees with this opposing view is Jessica Wilde. The reasons she states for why these actions need to be taken in her article “Juvenile criminals should be tried as adults” do not make sense to me. For example, she states, “A lack of human morals cannot be treated or cured in rehabilitation centers” (Wilde 1). This is almost the same as saying that people cannot change. I strongly disagree with her statement because I myself have witnessed someone gaining morals from one experience when they did not have them before that. This past year at my church’s summer camp I came to know a boy that had made many costly mistakes in his life and had even gotten a girl pregnant. By the end of camp he had turned his life around and had the mindset to stay on the right track and keep off of the track with all the temptations. On the ride home he even called the girl he got pregnant and apologized for the pain and suffering he had brought to her life. I believe rehabilitation could be this kind of experience for juvenile delinquents. This is not the only argument Wilde states that I disagree with. She also believes that a minor being sent to prison serves justice to the victim’s family. Although, if the family of the victim truly wanted to prevent things like this from happening to other families, they would want them sent to rehab.
By using simple reasoning and logic, one can find that kids do not deserve, but rather need this opportunity to learn from their mistakes. If they are sent to prison, it would only worsen their condition and moreover make them more dangerous. Sending youths to these abusive institutions virtually serves no purpose whatsoever in shaping and reforming the minds of insecure juveniles. By now one could be wondering, why does this truly matter? The truth is, it matters a lot more than one may think. The youth of our nation are our future, and these two court options give us two options for our future. If minors are tried as adults, our society would become depleted and the majority of the once-youth people would be locked up in prisons. However, if we choose to try them as minors, we could have a population abundant with people who have gained insight to their mistakes and can teach the youth of our future better than ours are taught today.