General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Do you believe that "juveniles convicted of even the most heinous crimes must be treated differently than adults" [Details]?

Asked by ibstubro (18770points) January 25th, 2016

I’ve often given serious thought to the ramifications of treating juveniles as adults under the law.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that those sentenced as teenagers to life imprisonment for murder must have a chance to argue that they be released from prison.

A few states allow children of any age to be tried as adults for certain types of crimes, such as homicide.

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17 Answers

Vincentt's avatar

I don’t quite understand why you’d make the distinction if you stop making it for certain crimes. But I haven’t give law (and law ethics) much thought, so what do I know.

ragingloli's avatar

Do you know the underlying assumption that is the reason why underaged humans are not legally allowed to do certain things, like sexual intercourse, driving, alcohol, voting, or being shipped off to the frontlines?

Answer: They are not mentally developed enough to understand all the ramifications.

If you are of the opinion, that the argument “oh, she was very mature for a 12 year old, so it was ok for her to have sex with that adult” is never acceptable, then you can not simply dismiss the underlying assumption of immaturity in the case of criminal behaviour of the minor.
To do so would be hypocrisy of the highest order.

Cruiser's avatar

The argument that kids brains aren’t fully developed until they are 19 and that an adolescent to maybe not have full capacity to understand the ramifications of their action is a scientifically sound one. But the debate in the Supreme Court was centered around really REALLY bad juveniles who commit really REALLY bad crimes. And I agree with the dissenting Justices that “permitting juvenile homicide offenders to be considered for parole” is not a good move as there are indeed kids/people that are beyond help and should not be given a chance at parole.

ucme's avatar

As children, then by definition they have far greater scope for rehabilitation & so in that regard, yes of course they should be treated differently.

gorillapaws's avatar

If you’re not considered responsible enough to vote, or drink alcohol, etc., then you shouldn’t be treated as an adult in the courts. If I got held accountable as an adult for stupid stuff I did as a kid, I’d probably be in jail right now. I’m ashamed to admit that I threw snowballs at moving cars with neighborhood friends once, that’s potentially attempted murder right there if you get the wrong prosecutor. I completely agree with @ragingloli.

As far as the logic of @Cruiser‘s argument, I don’t see how a court can determine at the age of say, 17 whether that person will always be beyond help for the rest of their life. It should be for a parole board to review in 20/40/however many years. It’s possible new treatments might be available by then, who knows.

CWOTUS's avatar

You’re sort of mixing apples and oranges in your question. You’re asking about whether juveniles “convicted” of various crimes should be “treated” as adults.

The question that precedes that one is whether they should be “tried” as adults, which is a different thing. In any case, even children who are tried as adults are not necessarily “treated” as adults in an adult prison population.

zenvelo's avatar

I am opposed to children being tried as adults. I am opposed to adults being tried as adults for crimes they committed as children.

imrainmaker's avatar

The juvenile justice law is prevalent in many countries around the world and has been a point of discussion whether there should be punishment based on degree of crime or not looking at various barberic acts done by so called juveniles..

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’ve never understood the logic of this. A child does not retroactively become an adult immediately before committing a heinous crime.

This must happen so infrequently that there can be a separate rule for such situations.

marinelife's avatar

All we are doing when incarcerating juveniles with adults is creating a career criminal.

ibstubro's avatar

[Underaged humans] “are not mentally developed enough to understand all the ramifications.” pretty much covers it, @ragingloli.

How can you know, @Cruiser that “there are indeed kids/people that are beyond help and should not be given a chance at parole” unless they are given a chance at parole? A ”chance at parole” doesn’t necessarily increase the chances of a 30 yo who was convicted at age 13 being released.

It’s a sad system that assumes a 14 yo is permanently beyond redemption, @ucme. That there will never be medical or psychiatric advances that improve the human condition.

I agree, @gorillapaws. Incredible for me to believe that someone convicted before the age of 18/21 is totally and forever beyond redemption. I’m not saying all or even most of the kids convicted will be rehabbed, just that it’s impossible to determine none of them can be.

The law allows juveniles to be tried as adults, @CWOTUS.
The Supreme Court found that juveniles tried as adults and given life imprisonment should be treated differently from adults tried as adults and given life imprisonment.
I don’t see where the Justices addressed the issue of trying juveniles as adults.

I respect that sentiment, @zenvelo. I do see, however, where a juvenile that commits cold blooded murder at 16 should not be eligible for release at 18/21 simply because they can no longer be detained in a juvenile facility.

I think the Justices are moving toward a “separate rule”, @dappled_leaves, and that seems overdue.

I agree that the standard for “giving up all hope”, i.e incarcerating juveniles with adults, should be very high, @marinelife
There are ‘bad seeds’, IMO, but you don’t find them by throwing the whole crop down the sewer.

Cruiser's avatar

@ibstubro What I really take issue with is the mandatory sentencing laws that force judges to impose these life without parole on first offender kids who didn’t even directly commit the crime/murder. That is where I see massive room for improvement as a kid who is being assaulted, raped or otherwise abused finally takes matters into their own hand and someone else does the dirty deed, being an accomplice gets these abused and confused kids a life sentence when all they really wanted was the abuse to end and there was no one there to help them.

Coloma's avatar

Depends. A young kid/teen falling in with the proverbial wrong crowd and being influenced into committing a serious crime should be tried as a juvenile and given a second chance to get straight. A little psychopath that murders his parents or other children or random strangers, nope…try them as an adult and let them rot in prison for the rest of their little sociopathic lives. There is no cure for bad seeds.

ucme's avatar

@ibstubro Then those states advocating that policy are so backward thinking they make the Amish look like modernists.

Cruiser's avatar

“There is no cure for bad seeds.” @Coloma There is now….they are made by Monsanto and otherwise known as GMO’s…..(Couldn’t resist!) ;D

SavoirFaire's avatar

First, it’s worth keeping in mind how narrow this decision is. Teague v. Lane (1989) established the current rules for when decisions are to be applied retroactively. Miller v. Alabama (2012) established that juveniles cannot be given mandatory sentences of life without parole. Today’s decision, Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), established that the retroactivity rules established in Teague v. Lane apply to Miller v. Alabama (which only became an issue after some of the lower courts failed to properly apply those rules).

Note that juveniles can still be given sentences of life without parole. Neither Miller v. Alabama nor Montgomery v. Louisiana forbid this. What these decisions do is remove one mandatory minimum and reintroduce judicial discretion in its place. Thus today’s decision only applies to juveniles who were given mandatory sentences of life without parole. Any juvenile convict who was given a life sentence as a result of mandatory sentencing laws must now receive either a new sentence or parole consideration. Note that the new sentence could still be life without parole, and anyone given parole consideration is not guaranteed to actually be paroled.

So on to the question: do I think that this decision is appropriate? Yes, I do. Looking at it from a purely legal perspective, the Teague test applies to Miller v. Alabama about as straightforwardly as one can expect at this level of judicial inquiry. This is why Chief Justice Roberts sided with the majority in today’s case despite siding with the minority in Miller v. Alabama (though he did not agree with the original decision, it clearly falls under the Teague test now that it is law).

But suppose we want to relitigate Miller v. Alabama by looking at it from a different perspective. One of the points made in Miller v. Alabama (as well as the 2005 decision Roper v. Simmons) was that certain sentences (viz., life without parole and capital punishment) are disproportionate when applied to juveniles unless their crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.” But social science research tells us that this sort of “irreparable corruption” is exceedingly rare even in delinquent juveniles and can be detected by looking at precisely the sort of evidence that mandatory minimums force judges and parole boards to ignore (see, for instance, Deviant Children Grown Up by Lee Robins).

As Justice Kennedy said: “Those prisoners who have shown an inability to reform will continue to serve life sentences. The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller’s central intuition—that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.” When constitutional law and science agree, I count that as a win for the people.

msh's avatar

I would rather have a law on the books for the serious cases we are experiencing more than at any other time in recent history. To wait for the case with the impossible to impose a more-beneficial situation for all, I would venture on the side of overextended supervised periods of time for the more-heinously inclined youth. I would rather they be taken out of the situations which helped to create this being, and put them under better structures where those dealing with like situations are present to help and guide.
Life, parenting, exposure to illegal substances before birth forward, media, gaming, family, exposure to various life-situation (i.e.- abuse of any kind, etc.) and community, have stacked the odds for some. Unfair? You bet. Occurances in all ranges of society? Yep. Do you want someone who behaved in a deadly cruel manner let out because of their age? Not me. I worked with those released, those entering in, and those who went on to land back in deadly situations again. Even a couple whom I ( and others) could picture pulling a Texas clock-tower stunt.
The 18–21 year, it’s erased, you’re free, records sealed past, is now outdated. Life has changed. Kids have changed. Some bank on that magic that can be called upon, often.
I’m speaking of the incredibly heinous crimes. I am pleased to have something as a stop-gap measure.
In these instances, legal defense will do their job. The press will decide if the people hear and see all involved individually, case by case. And appeals are all but written in stone.
Alternative housing, care, etc. will have to be worked out and established. Solitary punishment is not an answer.
But it’s time now, some things need to fit and settle now to be utilized when it happens. Kids can’t wait for us to catch up with them. Then it will be too late. For all of us.

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