Tess Louisiana

Unjust Juvenile Justice System

The Juvenile Justice System is flawed and we need a better way to truly discipline children, not endanger them.

Dear Mr. or Madame President:

Many times when people think about issues with this country they think about policemen, guns, or whatever else that is fervently expressed on social media currently. Personally, I think there's another issue that needs attention, an issue that many people don't think about or even know that it exists. The Justice System is flawed in many ways, more than most can count, but the justice system is a broad web of controversy, and the section that I am most passionate about is the Juvenile Justice System.

The most recent study funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that out of roughly 10,000 cases, juveniles (64%) were more likely than adults (24%) to be charged with a violent felony. (BJS.gov). Children tried as adults in court could be a fatal thing. The children are exposed to adult criminals ranging from murderer to convenience store theif. They are exposed to dangerous people and influences who will truly turn these impressionable teens into dangerous children and future convicts. There isn't a national standard for determining what age a child can be treated as an adult when it comes to the Criminal Justice System. The court doesn't know what to do to handle the situation so they go through the protocol motions as if the child were an adult. According to the Open Society Foundations, "the result is that approximately 200,000 American children are charged and incarcerated every year as adults in adult courts". Jennifer Polish, a political speaker with a PhD in Law says that "it is estimated that more than 61,000 youth are incarcerated each night". Given that these incarcerated youth die from suicide at a rate of two to three times higher than the non-incarcerated youth population, there are many controversies surrounding the jailing of youth(Lawstreetmedia.com). Some say that juveniles should take responsibility and receive the consequences for their actions, and that it is just easier for them to be sent to adult court. The problem is that these children could not just be tried as adults but be sent to adult facilities, or any of the other harsh punishments that an adult could end up with. This is especially dangerous if the children are young. Most cannot handle situations that convicted adults could. That's when they tend to commit suicide or act out in violent manners to protect themsleves; or much worse, they don't, and they get hurt by other inmates. Also when you give these juveniles extremely hard punishments or sentences, it tends give these children the impression that there is no hope for getting out or cleaning up and changing, no hope for them to ever become anything other than a criminal. "Once a felon, always a felon" a term used commonly, and if not used verbally, almost always a thought, made by judicial authority figures, or so says Micheal Watts senior CEO of Union Parish Juvenile Justice Center. These children catch on to this and have no drive to get out or become a productive member of society because they feel as though they'll always be "that convict". It's extremely traumatic for a child and the child's family. Also judges don't have much variety in punishments when it comes to adults. It's all pretty extreme. And this sentencing will go on the child's record. Being so young and not ever having a chance to get out there and make themselves something, they are stamped instantly as a "bad kid" and will probably have more trouble making a name for themselves and proving their worth from that point on.

Many times the sentencing of these children is extremely unfair when tried as adults. Many of the judges on these cases are also extremely biased. According to BJS.gov 75% of all juveniles sentenced as adults are males aging between fourteen and seventeen. Sources at CNN tell the story of young Shimeek Gridene, and how he was sentenced to an astonishing seventy long years in prison after he shot a worker at a local restaurant. The worker lived and was released from the hospital the same day. Gridene was only fourteen years old. In 2006 a twelve year old child murdered her entire family because they didn't approve of her boyfriend. She was only sentenced to ten years. This is proof of how the juvenile justice system needs help in extreme ways. Grindene was unrealistically punished for harming someone and the little girl, while still sentenced a profuse amount of jail time, committed a much worse crime and wasn't convicted with 1/3 of the punishment Gindene received. The system is flawed and makes no sense. The Juvenile Justice System thinks they're doing these kids a favor by judging based off age and gender rather than crime which is no help either, these children need a punishment that's fair to all parties with a sensible time span. Locking these kids up for years on end will only prevent these children from getting on the path to becoming better versions of themselves. Locking these kids up and "scaring" them is not the way to better these children.

Personally, I think that there should be a separate system that tries children 18 and younger. I do feel as though these children should be punished but instead of sentencing them to time in prison or giving them adult punishments, these children should be required to go through a boot camp or rehab or some kind of punishment that actually helps these children to get their lives straight and to clean up their acts. The punishment and severity of the course they go through and the time they are there should be determined by the severity of the crime, and whether or not the child has learned and/or has fixed his or her mistakes. I don't think that putting a child in a cell to rot and then ruining their name and their future is productive in any way. These children need appropriate discipline and need help to get straight. Someone needs to help these children in a safe and fair way.

Cedar Creek School

Cedar Creek School

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