No, minors should not be convicted as adults.
In 1993, Thaddeus Jimenez, 13, was convicted of killing 19-year-old Eric Moro in Chicago. That same year, the teenager received a 50-year sentence for the crime.
Jimenez was wrongfully accused of the crime. The Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit Court granted him a certificate of innocence 16 years later, qualifying him for compensation from the state for the miscarriage of justice. Juan Carlos Torres confessed on tape to the murder and was placed in jail 17 days after Jiminez was released.
Jimenez, now 30 years old, will likely never forget the fact that he has spent some of the best years of his life behind cold steel bars. Had he served his sentence, Jimenez would have left prison 63 years old.
Why would our legal system allow such harsh punishment on misguided and possibly disturbed minors?
"Researchers who study the effects of race in the juvenile justice system believe that ... skin color all too often is the determining factor in sentencing, particularly when it comes to making the fateful determination of whether a case is heard in juvenile or criminal court," according to an article on Amensty International USA's website.
Not only are children facing murder charges as certifiable adults, they are also the victims of absurd prejudices set upon them by a corrupt legal system with the power to condemn them to a life behind bars. It makes me sick that people would view color as a deciding factor.
Amnesty International says that "children can and do commit terrible crimes. However, when they do, they should be held accountable in a manner that reflects both their culpability and their special capacity for rehabilitation." Their capability for rehabilitation should be the deciding factor. This seems more fair than condemning them because of race or religion.
Some people see these heinous crimes and make assumptions about what caused them.
Some violent children are violent because of problems at home like neglect, bullying or some other kind of endangerment. Do these children fully understand the concept of death or how irreversible their actions are?
"Preadolescents, those under 11, typically do not understand the concept of death and have tremendous difficulty in accepting that their actions lead to an irreversible result. Adolescents are more likely to kill because the normal turbulence of adolescence runs up against constraints they perceive have been placed upon them in a setting of limited alternatives," according to Psychology Today.
I can't tell you how many children I see who have problems at home and ache for a way out but have none. Perhaps what they view as a justifiable solution is, to us, an absolute moral wrongdoing. Some children are trapped in environments which threaten their survival and sanity. There isn't always a way out.
According to Psychology Today, "Unlike adults, kids cannot simply leave. The law has made it a crime for young people to run away. Juveniles who commit parricide usually do consider running away, but many do not know any place where they can seek refuge. Those who do run are generally picked up and returned home, or go back on their own."
When I was just a boy, my parents were good friends with another family that had two sons. Long after my family and I moved to New York, we received a call that shocked us more than we had ever been before. The two sons slit their parents' throats in their sleep. At the time, they were 14 and 16 and had recently become skinheads. Those two children are now in prison for life, paying for the brutal act they committed against their loving parents.
"Why on earth would a child murder their parents?" I wondered. In this case, I believe they deserve life in prison. They butchered their adoring parents. But I can only say so because I knew the family and knew these kids' domestic situation.
How can a court hand out a just sentence without knowing the minor's living conditions, mental health, environment in which they were raised and the reasons for committing such horrible crimes? I believe condemning children to life in prison with inadequate information is absurd.
Some children can be victims of prejudice, misunderstanding or their environment. I don't believe that every child who commits a crime is bad at heart. We don't know the circumstances surrounding their actions.
Our judicial system throws big numbers at children who aren't scientifically capable of proper decision-making until they're 22 years old. Trying children as adults is a mistake in most cases and only breeds future repeat offenders.
Timothy is an international marketing major at Baruch.
Yes. If they do the crime, they should be prepared to the time.
Youth are always the greatest sources of hope for older generations. Dedicated parents put their entire lives into providing the best for their children so that the future may be worth looking forward to.
It is not just the parents' responsibility. Up to a certain age, one can't be expected to understand one's responsibility for one's actions. It is the parents' or guardians' job to ensure the youth's proper development. But once the human mind reaches a higher level of understanding and mental capacity, youth should be held accountable for their actions, especially if they involve murder, torture or severe misconduct.
The question of whether minors should be tried as adults has been a hot topic for the last 20 years. Some believe that teens are unable to comprehend the magnitude of their crimes and the proceedings in court. A study conducted by MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice supports this idea. ‘'In all likelihood, a large number of juveniles who are being tried as adults are not competent to stand trial,'' said Laurence Steinberg, director of the division which conducted the study.
Apparently, they are not competent enough to face charges for their actions, but they are competent enough to commit crimes like first-degree murder. This doesn't seem to make any sense, considering that most of the teenagers who are being charged are mentally stable. A similar notion is mentioned by Kent Schiedegger, legal director of the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, who states, "The notion that teenagers are not capable of understanding what is going on I find not credible in the case of mentally normal teenagers."
When we see a daughter setting her sleeping mother on fire, or a 15-year-old slaying another child and being sent to a youth court where the maximum sentence is five years, do we honestly believe justice was served? The 15-year-old boy, who brutally murdered a 13-year-old girl, was not sent to adult court because he was deemed by the judge as immature and too young to understand what he was doing. How is slashing and cutting a living human being with a knife not understanding what one is doing? In lighting one's own mother on fire, how does one not understanding what they are doing? Where is justice when such people are let out after serving just five years? At the very worst, they will serve time until they are 21.
One can argue about psychological trauma in childhood or mental instability. This is not the case in every murder trial involving youth.
When a punishment is not severe, it is because the crime was not considered severe enough. If teens are developing individuals who do not understand their own actions, lenient sentences will teach them that their crimes were not very severe.
Teens are not so stupid that they don't realize that they just took someone's life. If one dares to commit such a crime, especially the murder of parents and relatives, one should be ready to face the full possible consequences for their actions.
Alex is a freshman at Baruch.