Crime & Punishment: Exploring the Pros & Cons of Juvenile Justice



The juvenile justice system has been criticized where some argue that young people who commit serious crimes should be treated as adults as they appear old enough to commit the crime. In an era of an evidence based correction system, this answer must lie within the outcomes of such corrections. Subjecting the young people to the adult system can contribute to much more harm to them than good. The juvenile system is adequate to serve the purpose of holding young people accountable for serious crimes they commit. Juveniles are too young, thus cannot be viewed as adults as they are more impulsive, less mature and irresponsible, changeable and are highly susceptible to negative peer pressure. Young people are still work in progress. Thus rules should not be changed when they do bad things. This paper addresses the question of whether the juveniles should be tried as adults and whether it’s beneficial to the overall court system. It also highlights the reasons why the juveniles commit various types of crimes. This includes a look at both the positive and negative impacts of juvenile and adult court systems, to come to a logical conclusion.

Thesis: Juveniles should not be tried as adults since doing so does more harm than good to them.

Reasons why juveniles commit various crimes

Juveniles tend to commit crimes due to various risk factors when they were younger which includes repeated exposure to violence, poverty, easy access to firearms, drugs, wrong peer groups, media violence, family violence as well as unstable family life (Federle, 2016). Young people who are subjected to child abuse are likely to have a high level of aggression and antisocial behavior. Childhood Long-term exposure to television is a core factor behind many of the homicides committed by young people in the United States. Substantial exposure to television violence results to aggressive behavior, violence, and crime in the society. Increased accessibility and availability of guns has increased the number of homicides committed by juveniles. Possession of firearms and witnessing multiple murders as well as other acts of violence has accelerated juvenile crimes (Bailey, 2000). High levels of poverty and unstable family have increased the rate of juvenile robbery cases. Petty crimes among the juveniles are stimulated by negative peer pressure and drugs. Schools also play a huge role in generating juvenile violence due to involvement in delinquent peer groups.

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Whether Juveniles should be treated as adults

The juvenile system was established to handle juvenile convicts based on their young age rather than the crime committed. The main reason for juvenile court is rehabilitation, guidance, and treatment rather than punishment. For the last decades, the public has raised concerns in going tough on juveniles and handling them as adults. Many states have since changed the laws making it easier to try juveniles offenders as adults with some considering abolishing juvenile courts. These arguments are based on the critics that the juvenile system is instituted on false premises as its aims at protecting the juveniles from the consequences of their deeds and that it fails to deter juvenile violence. Some argue that current juvenile crime problems demand punishment on juvenile offenders in efforts to stop the next generation of juveniles from becoming killers (Bechtold and Cauffman, 2014). Others argue that justice stresses that juvenile courts be abolished. Juveniles tried in adult’s courts will still be afforded their full arrangement of constitutional rights. On the other hand, arguments refuting abolishment of the juvenile courts, states that the step will only make things worse. These arguments support that the premises of the juvenile courts are sound as the young people are not yet fully matured thus they shouldn’t be apprehended to the similar standard of accountability like adults. The other argument is centered on the aim of the juvenile system which is to treat and not to deter. Some argue that changing the social environment in the juveniles resides as a more efficient way of reducing juvenile violence rather than considering punishing the juvenile offenders in adults’ courts. In other cases, juvenile courts are preferably better as their mission is of goodwill in serving the best interest of young people. In some state like Tennessee, children as young as ten years have been charged as adults. There is no lowest age for being subjected to criminal courts for certain crimes. However, this kind of treatment can result in harsh consequences as most juveniles do not commit adults’ crimes but when punished as adults the likelihood of them committing more crimes after being free increases. Also, their employment and educational prospects deteriorate generating opportunities and incentives for more crimes as they face stigma. Juvenile systems assist in mitigating such harm (Bechtold et al. 2014).

In some circumstances, juveniles should, however, be treated as adults in order stop more juveniles from committing fierce crimes. It also offers justice to victims and affected families. Without a harsh disciplinary system, the society is left with a higher percentage of delinquents and accelerating percentage of juvenile crime victims where children are killed by other children and teens by teens. The United States must, therefore, hold the juvenile crimes accountable. Trying the minors like adults will assist in toughening the system by holding individuals responsible. Making minors fully responsible for their crimes in the United States and publicizing our cities will indeed be tough on crimes and will act as a warning to kids, which will always make them have a second thought before committing violence (Siegel and Welsh, 2016). In efforts to reduce violent crimes committed by young people, significant reforms in the justice system have been done in England and Wares: The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 where kids aged 10 and kids as young as eight years in Scotland are now regarded as criminally responsible for their actions as adults.

Trying juveniles as adults helps in bringing justice for an extreme crime committed. Despite juveniles being considered as children, they should be able to distinguish between wrong and right. Victims of juvenile offenses for instance murder cases deserve the justice done to them and their families’ members (Federle, 2016). Subjecting juveniles to the adult court system is also advantageous as juvenile courts mainly focus on the age of the offender rather the nature of the crime they committed. The increased number of crimes committed by young people in the past few years has raised the concern that has led to treating the juveniles as adults in the adult court system. This is because many of juvenile offenders are aware of the juvenile systems and thus tend to take advantage of the situation. Juvenile courts in other cases lack a jury, and hence offenders are not subjected to proper trial. Treating juveniles as adults will help to instill a moral compass in teenagers thus helping their mental maturity to begin much earlier.


After weighing all the issues, young offenders ought to be subjected to juvenile courts as being convicted in adult courts results in much more destruction rather than good. By putting them in an adult system, we throw away even the glimmer in them which is not the case in a juvenile system where the minors are protected from danger, shaped, rehabilitated and possibly transformed to better persons in future. When it comes to extreme violence crimes by juveniles, then the option should lean towards improving the juvenile system instead of turning to the adult courts. This becomes very beneficial to the overall court system by ensuring a fair trial which is a right and making sure justice is served.

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  1. Bailey, S. (2000). Juvenile homicide. Criminal behaviour and mental health, 10(3), 149-154.
  2. Bechtold, J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Tried as an adult, housed as a juvenile: A tale of youth from two courts incarcerated together. Law and human behavior, 38(2), 126.
  3. Federle, K. H. (2016). The Right to Redemption: Juvenile Dispositions and Sentences. La. L. Rev., 77, 47
  4. Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2016). Juvenile delinquency: The core. Nelson Education.
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