In today’s time we have a lot of children growing up in not so good circumstances. This can include things such but not limited too, being raised in a bad neighborhood, parents or parent is not involved in their life, a parent being a bad example or simply being involved with the wrong crowd. The list goes on. Children as young as 13, are being sentenced to life. Why are we punishing these children for the rest of their lives if this is all they know and were taught?
Children reciprocate what they see and learn. When a child commits a crime why would we want to not give them a chance later on in their life to be an active member of society? Somewhere society need to pitch in and help stop juvenile crimes. It all starts with teaching children right from wrong. Juvenile justice is important because not every child is incapable of being a great member of society, they are too young to be in jail for life, and they deserve a chance to redeem themselves.
Here in America we have a lot of rough neighborhoods, which has been shown that children being raised in these neighborhoods are more likely to commit a crime than children in wealthier neighborhoods. In rougher neighborhoods not always is the family dynamic strong either. Curry and Spergel, 1988; Horowitz, 1987 study found the following:
“Neighborhoods influence children’s behavior by providing examples of the values that people hold, and these examples influence children’s perception of what is acceptable behavior. Communities in which criminal activities are common tend to establish criminal behavior as acceptable. Tolerance for gang activities varies by community. (Page 80)
These children are growing up thinking that breaking the law is okay, or even a “normal” thing do. Kids need the resources to help them navigate through life, especially with coming out of a hard neighborhood. I have the privilege to work side by side with some “delinquent” children. If anyone who has worked in a rougher neighborhood, or with delinquent children we all can pretty much agree this child is acting out for a certain reason. A lot of time they are ecprcating what they were taught. A lot of kids I was around simply had no guidance they were in foster care. A place where most of time there is no love and affection. When these children lash out, it is seen as normal since they “have a harder life”. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:
“The home is the natural school for children. It is certainly the first. Through bonding with their parents, children internalize the moral values that are likely to shape their future conduct. Accordingly, as the report observes, ‘Children who are rejected by their parents, grow up in homes with considerable conflict, and are inadequately supervised are at greatest risk of becoming delinquents.’ Families and neighborhoods are the biggest influence on these youth crimes. Intervening and helping prevent this can save lives, and help us have a lower rate of children ruining a big part of their life for a mistake. These children still can be a great member of society regardless of their past or even if they have not commited a crime and are coming up in a rought neighborhood.
A lot of times regardless of the resources given to the youth their will obviously still be crimes committed. No, we cannot completely make sure very child does not commit a crime. However, we can help after they have commited a crime. Often times children will commit little crimes and that can tarnish a lot of things in the future for them that they are unaware of. These things can be applying for a job. A lot of jobs are not going to want someone with a record regardless of how small the act was. This is just a stigma that is strong. Or other things that a lot fo children are not thinking about, like applying for a house, a loan, or buying a car. They check every record. This can demolish any plans of a child trying to do better after commiting a crime. Luckily, the REDEEM act really is in favor for a lot youth. As found on congress.gov:
“This bill creates a mechanism by which certain eligible individuals may file a petition to seal federal criminal records with respect to covered nonviolent offenses. If an individual is eligible for such a sealing order, the court must notify the person in writing of their potential eligibility. The bill establishes a set of rules and procedures for assessing a sealing petition. If granted, the offense, criminal proceeding, conviction, or sentence shall be treated as if it never occurred.” This act helps so many children caught in the justice system.
A lot of them would appreciate that once their time is served and they are free they have nothing holding them back. They have a chance to prove themselves and make a life for themselves. Programs and laws like this rehabilitate rather than tarnish a young life. This is what we should be aiming for. Sara Jean Green from Washington Times stated, “A divided Washington Supreme Court on Thursday held that a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder constitutes cruel punishment and is unconstitutional. (2018)”
The state of Washington ruled that youth deserve another chance at life. Other states in future should follow too. I know a lot of organizations and groups are fighting for this law to be passed. This law being passed helps so many young offenders start their life and learn how to do it in a positive way. This shows that America is waking up and understands that just “ throwing away the key” on our youth is not the answer!
Sara also went on to say in her article, “The justices ruled 5-4 that trial courts may not impose a minimum term of life without the possibility of release for 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of aggravated first-degree murder, with Justice Susan Owens writing in the majority opinion that “the direction of change in this country is unmistakably and steadily moving toward abandoning the practice of putting child offenders in prison for their entire lives. (2018)” America is slowly but surely understanding the importance of helping our youth rather than give up and turn our backs on them. They are simply to young to give up on when they have a whole life to live.
In life, there are typically always second chances. Everyone makes mistakes, even adults well into their lives. Children are known to not make the best decisions in life. This is because their brain is not fully developed and can’t make the best decisions. Teens especially are repulsive. The juvenile system sometimes does not abide by this idea. These children deserve a chance at redeem themselves and gaining the confidence to do so. Research by David Gottesman and Susan Schwartz showed:
“the human brain continues to develop throughout adolescence, with the prefrontal cortex – the section of the brain responsible for executive function and complex reasoning – not fully developing until the mid-twenties. Because adolescents’ brains are not fully matured, their decision-making and thought processes differ from those of adults. For example, it is developmentally normative for adolescents to take greater risks and show greater susceptibility to peer influences than adults.
These otherwise normal differences can contribute to behaviors that lead to involvement with the juvenile justice system. Beyond developmental influences, additional risk factors associated with youth ending up in the juvenile justice system are cognitive deficits, low school involvement, living in poverty, or being runaway or homeless. (Gottesman and Schwartz 2011)”
These children are literally not capable of making the best decisions. This is why children should always get the opportunity of being rehabilitated after a crime they committed and then sent back into society to redeem themselves. Judge Thomas Edwards of Santa Clara county in an interview said “We need the involvement of the community in what we do with their kids.
All we’re doing in here is trying to deal with the problems facing our community’s children, and I need their help. I need their experience, I need their concern, I need their love, I need their talent, and I can’t do it with the door locked. So I would like to throw the locks away and open the door and bring the sunshine of the community into my courtroom. That’s what I would like. (T.Edwards personal communication, 2014) This Judge has seen many cases and I find is very knowledgeable in this field. He believe rehabilitation is great way to help the youth not throw them away for good. This just isn’t a solution. The state of California Legislative passed a bill called Assembly Bill n. 1308, where on their website legalature.ca.gov give the information to the public as:
“Existing law generally requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct youth offender parole hearings to consider the release of offenders who committed specified crimes when they were under 23 years of age and who were sentenced to state prison.(2017)” This is a big step for our state. They even raised the age requirement you don’t have to be a teenager to be considered “youth”. Like I previously stated, our brains are not fully developed until we are in our mid twenties. This age requirement was raised to 23 where these offenders are considered youth. Our youth offenders deserve this opportunity to redeem themselves.
Juvenile justice is so important because they are apart of our society and future society hey deserve a chance to become and active member of society, they are simply too young to serve a life sentence, and they deserve a chance to redeem themselves. Overall, our justice is slowly coming to an understanding that our youth justice system needs some revisions. Helping our youth rehabilitate themselves after a crime is way more effective than throwing them away in jail cell for years, or in some cases life. Give them resources and keeping them near family to help them gain confidence to become an active society member is a way better route. These children learn these behaviors from outside sources. They aren’t just born to act out.
These sources would include the neighborhoods they are brought up in, how their family is morally, if this child had childhood trauma. The list goes on about what can cause these behaviors. Most importantly, these are young people we are talking about. They have not fully mentally developed, and their emotions are hard to detain. Giving up on our youth and turning our backs to them will not help with turning them into a healthy and active society member. Giving the resources and guidance will help change a lot for our future of not just our youth but our youth offenders.