Charging children as adults is a way to make sure they don’t get lenient sentences for dramatic crimes. However, it ignores one crucial – and very simple – point: Kids aren’t adults. Trying them as adults could open them up to more problems than it solves. Below are a few reasons that some experts believe courts shouldn’t charge them as adults:
1. Juries aren’t their peers.
You’re supposed to face a jury of your peers when accused of a crime. Obviously, teens and children aren’t assigned jury duty. No 16-year-old facing criminal accusations is going to stand in front of a jury of other 16-year-olds.
2. Brain development isn’t done.
The assumption that brain development is well over by a child’s teenage years is a myth. Many studies have debunked it. Experts now think that the brain doesn’t really stop developing until some time in a person’s 20s, after he or she is definitely a legal adult. Is it really fair to charge a 13-year-old as an adult when he or she isn’t thinking like an adult?
3. Children aren’t given other rights.
By charging children as adults, courts are saying they need to have the same responsibilities as adults. However, the law also strips them of rights that true adults have, like the right to vote or to join the army. To say that someone has to face adult charges while also saying that he or she doesn’t deserve adult rights is hypocritical.
4. Children could be in danger.
Prisons may not be safe for children. They’re sometimes not safe for adults. Locking kids up may prevent them from committing additional crimes, but it could turn them into victims on the inside. The things they experience could change the course of their lives. Again, this is just part of the problem that arises when saying that people who are not adults should count as adults.
5. It doesn’t put an end to repeat offenses.
Studies have shown that charging kids as adults doesn’t stop them from committing more crimes when they get out. They are better off in a safe environment where they can have structure and they can learn. Simply throwing them behind bars typically doesn’t work, which undermines the main argument for trying them as adults. Why subject them to increased risk in an adult facility if there’s no real long-term benefit?
Finding out that your child is facing criminal charges is jarring enough; finding out that he or she is being tried as an adult just makes it worse. If this happens, make sure you know all of the legal options that you and your child have.