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Criminals are getting younger and victims are getting younger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, males fifteen to nineteen years old, are being killed six times more often that in 1963. (Elikann 242) Homicide is the number two killer for young men, second only to accidental deaths. The FBI reports that the number of murder victims between the ages of ten and fourteen rose between 1985 and 1992, a 62 percent. (Elkiman 242) Young people turning to crime is result of a combination a bravado, hopelessness, access to firepower, and the allures of the drug market.”
(Elikann 241) What are the actions that society, and or the government, should take to keep our country’s young from turning to crime or being victims of crime themselves? In the past few years there has been many Americans who have come to believe that juveniles who commit terrible crimes should be tried as adults and sentenced accordingly. That swift and prompt punishment is the solution to turning young people from a life of crime. Previously, society thought we could rehabilitate juveniles and turn them away from a life of crime. What is the best answer for society, the juveniles and their victims?
People in America began to get very worried and upset about the news reports they were seeing almost daily in the paper and on the television about juveniles
committing serious crimes. There was a movement that began to demand governments do something about this increase in crime by juveniles. In 1988, about 1.6 million juveniles were arrested, 69,000 for violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Of these arrest 18,000 of the juveniles were between the ages of 10 and 14. (Lauder 111- Lang 37) The age most like to do violence is between 15 and 25, which about 15 percent of the population, are about two-thirds of those arrested for
violent crimes in America. (”Teen Homicides Reflect Society’s Violence,” USA Today, April 1988, 5 – Lang 29) The “get tough’ movement that the country saw in 1970s and early 1980s led to a large number of youths being confined. (Schwartz 58)
“The Supreme Court in 1967, handed down a decision that said that children should not be convicted of crimes without evidence of their guilt, without fair
trails and lawyers, and the chance to face their accusers.” (Humes 25) Prior to this there was a “separate juvenile justice system that was more informal, stripped of legal ritual and dedicated to quickly helping troubled kids get back on track, but these intentions brought about abuses.” (Humes 25)
In the beginning, when Illinois established a separate court juvenile court in 1899, these courts were set up with the belief that one could change human behavior and turn troubled children into law-abiding citizens. People thought these were
children who did something bad rather than bad children. (Lang 73) The goal was rehabilitation rather than punishment. (Silberman 310) If a juvenile is twelve or younger they are considered a juvenile delinquent and tried in a Family Court. Those thirteen to eighteen are considered juvenile offenders. Their records are kept secret. In most states teens must be sixteen to eighteen to be tried as adults. (Lang 73)
These juvenile courts were given the discretion to take children from their homes. Children could be placed in shelters, group or foster homes. Parental rights could be terminated. (Silberman 318) Judges had to decide on “neglect” and “delinquency” cases. If a judge determine a juvenile delinquent they could place them on probation or incarcerate them in training school, forestry camp, or ranch or a group home.
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