Juvenile Justice Though crime, in general, is on the decline there are specific crimes and group offenders that are actually increasing. Specific crimes such as hate crimes, those crimes motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group, based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, and juvenile crimes have become escalating debates. Lionel Tate, a 12-year-old boy at the time of his actions, is a suitable case to investigate. Using his case, I will address the increase in juvenile delinquency, the contributions to the malice acts, the severity of the crimes being committed by youth, and possible, yet reasonable repercussions. Lionel Tate, now 14, was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole on March 9, 2001.
This harsh conviction was founded on the basis of the beating and death of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick. Tate defense lied in the hands of his television heroes, professional wrestlers, whom he claimed he was simply imitating. This argument was not enough to convince the jurors that his actions were an accident. If a defense team was not able to convince a select group of individual that violence on television is becoming more of an issue with youth violence, then how is a nation of parents going to be convinced that television, video games and other public violence is affecting their children. Is every parent going to have to experience what Lionel Tate or Tiffany Eunick's parents experienced to see the effects of a violent society in which children are being raised? Understand that there are more than one cause to juvenile violence. Media and television related violence is only one of the factors.
Addressing and trying to correct one issue at a time is going to be the most productive. Take television for example. Lionel Tate was obviously influenced by actions he saw from people, adults, on television. Though not all blame can be put in the hands of the entertainment industry. Other factors including parent control and limitation, and previous behavioral patterns could have prevented Tiffany's death. In the book, Children in a Violent Society, Joy Osofsky makes a strong case about kids and the negative effects of witnessing violence.
'Children learn what they see... and they do not learn that violence is bad. Too often, they learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict... .' (Osofsky, 4). Take a hypothetical situation about Johnny. He is hitting his little sister, Mary.
His mother punishes him by spanking, or hitting him, while telling him hitting is not appropriate. Albert Band ura, an early psychiatrist, found many years ago that observational learning, based on modeling, is a very effective and critical way of learning. While Johnny experiences his mother hitting him, it reinforces the behavior. Many argue that television does not have an effect on the actions of an individual, let alone one's own child. Many parents claim that their child understands the difference of television and reality, though they have never discussed the issue with their child.
'Beginning in the 20's and 30's, there were questions raised about the influence of crime and violence portrayed in comic books, movies, radio serials, and, by the 1950's, television (Osofsky, 72). So, this topic of influence and violence is nothing new. In general the amount of juvenile crime and violence has increased since the invention of the television. Over the past 40 years there had been a growing concern of the potential negative influences that television has on society (Macbeth, 119). Yet, despite the 70 years on research and attention, media and entertainment violence can still spark an intense conversation.
People vary in their views about the causes, effects, and repercussions regarding youth crime. Regardless, one thing is certain, the severity of the crimes reported has increased. And the tolerance for violence has greatly increased. Children engaging in fights has escalated from throwing a few punches to wondering if someone has a gun. The meaning of 'Ill meet you by the bike rack after school' has taking on a whole new meaning.
If I show up will I get a bullet through the head? This is something children should not be facing. I heard on the radio the other morning a story of a five-year-old girl talking to her mom. The young girl was going to be starting kindergarten and asked her mom if she got to have a cell phone so she could call her mother when ' the bad people come.' This really made me think that the society that we live in has and will continue to deplete if nothing is done. While addressing the increase of tolerance for violence I realized that mild violence has become acceptable. Consider Disney, almost all parents would allow their child to watch a movie produced by Disney. Would you ever consider any of their movies violent? Neither do most adults.
Because of their reputation they have created a name parents feel they can trust. In The Lion King, Mufasa 'king of the jungle' was trampled to death. In the end of the movie, Simba, his son, comes back to fight his evil uncle for the title of 'king of the jungle'. Simba ends up killing his uncle and regaining the thrown.
Simba uses violence to get what he wants. This message may be subtle and children may not make the distinction between animal survival and human problem solving. But this is just another way children are influenced by what they see and even at a younger age. With the increase in acceptability of violence where will it stop? I know it must start somewhere and continue on to the hands of the justice system. This is another issue that is highly debated. After children or young adults have committed crimes not acceptable in society what should be done with them? Lionel Tate was convicted of murder and should have for killing another human.
The mandatory sentence for murder is life. No discretion is given to the courts or judge even if they felt he was capable of rehabilitation. In our society we have conflicting standards and morals. Though this is true for most things it is most evident in the fact that we feel we must punish crimes evenly and fairly, but feel it is inhumane to put a child on death row. Arguments from both sides are valid; all must follow the law and accept all consequences for their actions, yet a child is still learning about consequences, he might not fully understand society and its boundaries, and perhaps is willing to learn and be grateful of a second chance.
The death penalty for a 14-year-old sounds a bit harsh, because it is. Other ways to punish and help this child understand his wrongdoing will benefit himself and others. I feel that if we can deter younger children from committing such awful crimes with the cases we are given now and make an example of them, society will benefit from it in the long run. Our species will not suffer at the expense of a few individuals.
The greater over the few may not be a great philosophy with everything, but in this situation it serves a great purpose. To have any chance at success we need to make the cases, situations, and consequences, we have now, more public. If youth thinks these things could never happen to them, we need to help them understand how to not let it become them. Teach and show them how to prevent violence and crime by solving problems in a non-violent manner, and recognize the difference between reality and make-believe.
Just as Mr. Rogers does, taking a trolley into Make Believe, we, as mentors to the next generation, need to make a great distinction between truth and feign. Bibliography Hancock, Barry W. , Sharp, Paul M. Criminal Justice in America; theory, practice, and policy. 2000.
Prentice-Hall, Inc. New Jersey. Kelleher, Micheal D. When Good Kids KILL. 1998. Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT.
MacBeth, Tennis M. Tuning in to Young Viewers. 1996. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA. Osofsky, Joy D.
Children in a Violent Society. 1997. Guilford Press. New York..