On March 7, 2000, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 21 - The Juvenile Justice Initiative... The number of crimes committed by juveniles has risen dramatically, and it will continue to rise unless some action is taken. Thus, juvenile offenders should be punished more severely to deter other teenagers from committing crimes and for the safety of all citizens. I am in favor of the requirement that juvenile offenders, age 14 or older, be tried as adults for serious crimes, such as murder or violent sex offenses. Juveniles that commit these serious offenses should be tried and sentenced as an adult, rather than just being given a slap on the wrist. Having more severe punishments for juvenile offenders that commit violent crimes would most likely decrease juvenile offenses.
More severe punishment for juveniles would equal less crime, because juveniles would then think twice before breaking the law if they are aware that a severe punishment awaits them. While it is not appropriate for these individuals to be placed in the same facilities as adult offenders, they should receive the same degree of punishment, but in a facility with peers their own age who have committed similar offenses. The juvenile justice system is not adequate in handling serious crimes committed by minors. It does not ensure that these young juvenile offenders will end their days of crime. In most cases, sentences issued are merely slaps on the wrist. With this in consideration, it can be realized that a stricter justice system can eventually deter teenagers from committing violent crimes.
In the past, the majority of cases brought to juvenile court were misdemeanors. Today, the crimes are becoming more and more serious than in the past. More felonies are committed by juveniles today, than misdemeanors. More strict penalties need to be set for serious crimes committed by juveniles. Juveniles who perpetrate violent crimes or felonies should be sentenced as an adult. While some misdemeanors are still serious crimes, the ones who commit them do not require as harsh a treatment as the ones who commit violent crimes or felonies.
Many people believe that under the guidance of social workers or probation officers that young offenders undergo a type of rehabilitation. So, instead of placing violent juvenile offenders into facilities where they should be treated as prisoners, the juvenile justice system places them into facilities where they receive "guidance" in hopes of rehabilitating them. However, this youth guidance facility usually includes comfortable amenities such as: television, recreational games and sports, better food, and medical care than what one would have at home. This does not set a good example for an offenders' peers.
Their peers come to realize that the punishment is not at all that bad. Subsequently, these young offenders will commit the same crimes because they are not afraid of the consequences. If juvenile offenders are punished the same degree as adult offenders, it would possibly strike fear into the hearts of others. As a result, many juveniles may refrain from committing crimes. Many people believe that when juveniles are imprisoned, the development of their criminal traits is only encouraged.
When placed in an adult environment at a young age, many believe that the adult prison system will act as a school of crime for juveniles. I do not believe that they are going to learn anything in prison that they haven't already learned on the outside. I also believe that separate facilities should be created, in which to place minors apart from adults to serve sentences for the crimes they have committed. Just as adult offenders have a trial and receive a sentence, juvenile offenders who commit violent crimes should also be tried and punished for their crimes. It is not acceptable for juvenile offenders to get off the hook with just a requirement to attend a class and pay a fine, which is basically a slap on the wrist. Adults who commit the same types of violent crimes are prosecuted and required to serve prison time.
A separate court should be created within the juvenile justice system when a minor commits murder or a violent sex offense. Cases in which the offenders are minors, should not be sent to the adult courts, but to a separate court where juvenile offenders are tried as adults. This would allow for the proper sentencing of the individual. However, if a minor were to be tried as an adults, they would receive more strict sentences convincing them that what they did was wrong. It would also possibly prevent them from being repeat offenders in the future. As it is, without the passage of Proposition 21 the juvenile justice system merely issued slap on the wrist punishments.
Hopefully, this proposition sends a message to minors that if they commit a violent crime, they should be prepared to face strict consequences.