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Should Juvenile Delinquents Over the Age of Twelve Be Tried as Adults?

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Should Juvenile Delinquents Over the Age of Twelve Be Tried as Adults?
Table of Contents
  1. Why do we need juvenile courts?
  2. Trying youths as adults
  3. Implications of abolishing the juvenile courts
  4. Focusing on the future
  5. Reference

In the United States court system, juvenile lawbreakers have in times gone by been treated differently from grown-ups. Juvenile lawbreakers are considered less on the wrong side of the law and more acquiescent to rehabilitation. Adult lawbreakers on the other hand are considered toughened criminals.

Why do we need juvenile courts?

The advantages of juvenile courts are very tremendous from the perspective of the youth offender. These courts offer solace to the unsympathetic trial and punishment dimensions of adult courts. They also offer the concrete prospect for change and improvement. These institutions mainly focus on the alteration of the behavior of the deviant youth who have so much future and potential. Despite their character being flawed by unlawful activities, they still have time to reflect on their future and be given the power to prosper.

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Juvenile courts are part of the prop up structure of children and teenagers who cope with their wrong acts and decisions. Of course, they have still been punished just like the adults are but here the punishment is focused mainly on the capability of the youth to change their behavior first (Austin 22). They should recognize the need to change and therefore ask help from others to keep up positive behavioral changes within them. These courts display empathy in their dealings.

The judges recognize the reasons why these teenagers committed crimes, so long-term recommendations will benefit the youth. The options do not normally include long separations from family or incarceration. This is so because any form of incarceration targets making the youth reflect on their crimes and learn that people can discover from previous mistakes that they can improve and be better persons. This is why they have to pay when they make mistakes.

The psychosomatic well-being of the youth makes the juvenile courts identify the youth criminals’ specific needs and try fulfilling them. These courts thus do not represent the youth antagonist but symbolize their encouragement and hope in the youth.

Trying youths as adults

Abolishing the juvenile courts means trying the children and teenagers as adults. There have been debates on this for so long and that is why we have to look at the two sides of the argument. As long as the number of juvenile criminals continues to increase, the result and significance of juvenile courts continue to be assailed too. There are severe social implications that go with abolishing the juvenile courts’ harsh trial and punishment dimensions of adult courts. The juvenile courts offer tangible opportunities for change and development (Criminal Justice Periodicals).

There are some social repercussions of abolishing the juvenile court. There will be both gains and losses in this kind of situation, but that depends on different factors, that will lead to different scenarios. If the juvenile courts get abolished and children twelve years old and above are tried as adults and the community-based proto-courts handle those who are younger.

There should be provision still for the existence of intake departments that can dismiss “light” cases before they reach adult courts. In adult courts, young delinquents are punished as adults. They can go through multiple life sentences, even death sentences when applicable. They either will be completely changed by the adult court or punished or they will turn out worse. And if they do turn out worse, they could do more harm to society once released. But, if they were transformed by incarceration somehow, they would change for the better after serving their imprisonment time.

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Implications of abolishing the juvenile courts

Abolishing the juvenile system can either work or fail to work. If it works then it will serve its purpose in lessening the effects of juvenile delinquency as well as rehabilitating juvenile delinquents (Austin 22). It can work in such a way that the society is protected in the short run while the offenders are imprisoned, but the offenders suffer more in the long run. Their psychological welfare could be totally and adversely affected by imprisonment and separation from their friends and families. These students will face depression and might find it very difficult to come back and go on with life as usual.

Further still if they are mixed with adults who are already extremely dangerous criminals in their sense, then they may get out of prison with very bad habits acquired from such individuals and this may prove to be detrimental as far as their well being is concerned (Criminal Justice Periodicals). Taking these children to prison puts them away from their parents and the implication is that they will be denied a chance of being brought up by their parents who could have instilled moral values in them. Further still seclusion of these children away from the rest, denies them the chance of schooling and once they are not educated and with no reliable sources of income then they are likely to continue being criminals in the future.

Lastly locking these children away from their friends at a very tender age as twelve denies them the chance to grow well playing with their colleagues. If the court system is there to assist these young people to grow well into good adults then we should never mix our youths with hardcore criminals. The reasoning behind this of course is that these youths are not yet criminals as such but are only petty offenders who may not even be knowing why they broke the law.

Focusing on the future

Juvenile courts should not be abolished but be redefined according to specific needs and issues that the youth faces today. These courts aim for the reformation of youth offenders, and they can start with identifying why such cases arise, and from there help eliminate the genuine root causes of juvenile delinquency by creating juvenile prevention programs (Tang & Nunez 39). The Juvenile Justice System must consist of people, and judges that can attain a critical balance between understanding the youth’s needs and issues, as well as appropriating fair punishments. There ought to be dispositional alternatives (Austin 28). The juvenile court must determine sanctions that respond to the therapeutic rehabilitative needs of offenders, without forsaking accountability and community safety. Juvenile courts must enforce policies where parents or the guardians of the children actively help in supporting their children’s welfare. They can also try “parent responsibility laws,” which fines parents for the criminal deeds of their children.

Communities, and teenage or youth-oriented organizations and groups must also be encouraged by the juvenile system to actively participate in creating more meaningful and sustainable means of therapy for youth offenders. Outside support can help children and teenagers feel that they compose a vital part of their communities, instead of perceiving stigma or discrimination.

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Communities play a huge role in monitoring dispositional options. Members of the community know these children in some way or another and must be able to identify what should be done to help children develop themselves. They can also employ model offenders, to help give sharing or training for other offenders.

In terms of dealing with children and teenagers with repeated crimes, their problems and issues must be analyzed and identified. The juvenile courts must seek help from the families of these children to determine the cause and reinforcements of such criminal behaviors. The juvenile courts must assure the timeliness of its processes. They must be part also of other decisions that concern the welfare of children, especially those that are victims of abuse and neglect.

Juvenile court judges should be arbiters of children’s rights. They can serve as spokespersons for schools, churches, and other institutions and advocate family and community-based youth programs. These programs involving youth could inhibit more youth from developing social deviances. The juvenile court system must be like any system, self-critical at all times. They must continuously ask what they can do to prevent the increase of youth offenders and at the same time, create relevant measures to punish juvenile delinquents appropriately. They ought to continuously coordinate with families, churches, schools, communities, and local and national youth welfare organizations, to create a more holistic and long-term approach in helping the youth help themselves. If the children and youth lack direction, then what can adults do to facilitate their awareness for vision and self-realization? Questions like these point out some core youth issues, that when properly addressed, can decrease juvenile delinquency.


Austin Ph.D., James, Kelly Dedal Johnson, Ph.D., Maria Gregoriou, M.A. Bureau of Justice Assistance: Juveniles in Adult Prisons and Jails: A National Assessment. 2005. Web.

Connie M Tang, Narina Nunez. “Effects of Defendant Age and Juror Bias on Judgment of Culpability: What Happens When a Juvenile is Tried as an Adult? “American Journal of Criminal Justice: AJCJ 28.1 (2003): 37-52.

Criminal Justice Periodicals. ProQuest. BCCC Libraries, Baltimore, MD. 2008. Web.

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