Sunday, December 02, 2007

Prosecuting kids as adults being re-thought

Here in Toledo this has been a recent topic of discussion with boy who was 15 at the time of the murder of a police officer being charged as an adult and recently sentenced to 18 years to life. There was quite a bit of debate in our community when it came to should be tried as an adult, with the now retired Judge James Ray deciding he should be. Yet in reading this article from USA Today, Prosecuting kids as adults: Some states ponder changes points out some States are rethinking this. While I do not feel that a 14 or a 15 year old who murders someone should be automatically released at age 18 or 21, I don't believe placing children into the adult criminal system is the solution as was done with the Robert Jobe case and many other cases nationwide.

Some interesting parts of the USA article:
Some politicians began using the phrase "adult crime, adult time." There were predictions of even bleaker days ahead.

Some warned that by the end of the century, thousands of remorseless kids — a new generation of "superpredators" — would be committing murder, rape or robbery, joining gangs and dealing drugs.

"There was an organized effort to label kids and make people afraid of juveniles," Snyder says. "People were saying their mothers had smoked crack, their DNA had changed. ... they were no longer the same people. They tried to make it seem these kids are different from your kids and that you need to do something."

But the super-vicious breed of criminal never emerged. (The professor who coined the "superpredator" term later expressed regret.) Drug trafficking declined. An improved economy produced more jobs. And the rate of juvenile violent crime arrests plummeted 46% from 1994 to 2005, according to federal figures.

"When crime goes down, people have an opportunity to be more reflective than crisis-oriented and ask, 'Was this policy a good policy?"' Bilchik says.

The MacArthur Foundation said in a report to be released this month that about half the states are involved in juvenile justice reforms — among them, taking more kids out of the adult system, providing more mental health and community based-services and improving conditions at detention centers.

A national poll, commissioned by MacArthur and the Center for Children's Law and Policy and set for release at the same time, also found widespread public support for rehabilitating teens rather than locking them up. Most favored shifting some money states spend on incarcerating kids and using it for counseling, education and job training.

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