Maggie Marr Marr 2 Honor's English 11 Ms. Stout 20 February 2001 Incarcerating Kids Destroys American Society Humans all make mistakes, it is a part of life that no one can avoid. However, young adults are more likely than the older generations to make bad decisions and take part in things that they may someday regret. Some people say that making mistakes is just a part of growing up. But what if just one wrong decision could mean the difference between a normal childhood and spending the rest of adolescence behind cold steel bars with cruel and vicious adult criminals Unfortunately for a growing number of young teenagers, their reality is never being given a second chance to change or correct their mistakes.
Why Some may ask, because instead of attending school, learning the difference between right and wrong, and finding out about themselves and life, they are struggling to hold their own to prove how tough and grown up they are to the only role models within their reach. Murders, rapists and drug dealers are the kind of people young kids who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time are forced to live behind bars with everyday. Sending kids to adult prisons is wrong and uneccesarily destroys their futures. Juvenile offenders who commit nonviolent crimes should be rehabilitated in the juvenile justice system where they could continue their education and better learn from their mistakes.
Marr 3 Florida is one such state that should reconsider how to handle the matter of sending juveniles to adult prisons. According to Florida's state incarceration statistics, in May 1996, there were 104 youths (under 18 years) mixed in with the adult population in the Florida prison system, and 457 youths under the jurisdiction of Florida's adult correctional system (Florida 7). Congress is continually passing new laws to keep first time juvenile offenders from ever getting a second chance in life. The irony of the problem of sending thousands of children to adult prisons every year instead of juvenile centers, where they could change for the better, is that statistics show that incarcerating kids in adult prison does not work. Florida is an excellent example of a state that continually convicts more and more juveniles despite the facts that sending juvenile's to prison does not work. A 1996 study showed that youth transferred to adult court in Florida were a third more likely to re-offend than those sent to the juvenile justice system for the same crime (Florida 8).
Statistics show that teen-agers tried as adults committed serious crimes upon release at a rate double those tried as juveniles (Juveniles 32). Florida state should revaluate how they want Florida citizens to help society. The problem is only increasing. Instead of putting more money into rehabilitation centers for youth, the government is building more prisons to house adult and juvenile offenders. The problem has not gone unrecognized though, former President of the United States, Bill Clinton recognized that juvenile crime was a problem in the United States. However, instead of looking for possible solutions to the issue, he took the easy Marr 4 way out and helped to pass laws to put juveniles who commit non-violent crimes in adult prisons.
Also as part of Clinton's "Anti-Gang and Youth Violence Control Act of 1996," he proposed to allow juveniles to be prosecuted as adults not only for violent crimes, but also for drug conspiracy and crimes involving guns (Clinton 13). Clinton's attempts to put a stop to juvenile crime, like many of the bills that have been passed by congress only accomplished one thing, putting more people in prison who could be changing their lives and making America a better place. Between 1992 and 1995 over 40 states changed their laws to make it easier to transfer juveniles to adult court. In most states, juveniles can be tried as adults for non-violent crimes, and some states have adopted mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for juveniles (Swain 27).
But if the state officials would examine the statistics they would see that criminal activity is still sky rocketing. Many states look at sending children to prison as an answer to the crime issue. Despite sending kids who do not deserve to be in adult prison there anyway. Florida is just such a state. Even though Florida's prosecutors have been sending large numbers of kids to the adult prison system since 1981, Florida has the second highest overall violent crime rate in the country (Florida 10). State officials should realize that sending a kid who commits an act of nonviolence has a higher chance than before he was sent to adult prison of becoming a more aggressive and dangerous person.
Marr 5 To some, prison may seem like the only way to stop juvenile crime. But in reality prison is somewhat like a criminal college for the young offenders who are sent there. "When you lock up a 13-year-old with a hardened adult criminal, he gets more than a cellmate, he gets a role model, some kids need to be attained to keep the public safe. But I know from my own youth, when I was a ward of the court, and from the workings of my own juvenile justice system, that sending kids to adult court unnecessarily destroys them" (Beam on 33).
Since trying children as adults does not deter crime, a better solution must be found. Programs that will show children the other road in life, road that does not lead to criminal activity. On such place is the Brown Schools Behavioral Health System. The Brown schools has an over fifty-five year history in treating children and adolescents with severe emotional behavior problems from all areas of the United States and twenty-two foreign countries.
They believe that the adolescents of today are in some ways psychologically different from the adolescents of just a few years ago. The Brown Schools aim at re-socializing. Re-directing and psychologically re-habilitating young people in a positive peer culture, correctional techniques and current advancement in psycho pharmacological support. The Brown Schools have an excellent success rate in rehabilitating criminal teen-agers (Brown 29). Unfortunately not all families can afford to send their troubled teens to the somewhat expensive schools. Another alternative is, The Devereux-Texas Treatment Network, established in 1912.
Devereux is the nation's largest independent non-profit provider of treatment Marr 6 services for children and adolescents who have delinquent behavior patterns. The programs are designed for males and females ages 13-22 years old. Devereux focuses on children's education and offers specialized programming for adolescents and young adults that are both difficult to treat and hard to place (Brown 30). Studies of programs such as those previously listed are successful in rehabilitation of nonviolent juveniles.
A 1996 Connecticut Judicial Branch study found that offenders under the age of 21 sentenced to Alternatives to Incarceration Programs have a lower rate of re-arrest than offenders convicted of similar crimes but sentenced to Department of Correction Incarceration (Myth 31). One such alternative program is the Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives, INC. , (EFYA). EFYA has provided programs for emotionally troubled, at risk and delinquent youth for over 28 years. The Division of Juvenile Justice Services is made of an array of programs that is growing, strengthening, and responding to the varied needs of youth in our dynamic society. The EFYA offers rehabilitation programs that are re-entry driven and focused on the youth, family and parental involvement the need for formal education, personal and vocational growth and replacement of old habits with positive more responsible ones.
These programs are created through partnerships with local, state, regional and national children and youth agencies. The community could also be the basis for crime prevention. After school programs, drug prevention programs and community youth organizations offer our children alternatives to criminal activity. Effective community based programs can and Marr 7 will keep kids off the streets and out of trouble (Crime Act 12). "Federal funding for proven and effective prevention programs is one of the most powerful commitments we can make to ending juvenile crime in our country. Early intervention through the juvenile crime prevention programs help put our kids back on the right track"s (Crime Act 34).
Although all of these possible solutions are effective and should be given a second glance by congress and government funding programs, history shows that the most effective and wise solution to put a stop to prosecutors trying juveniles as adult sss would be to process all criminal juvenile offenders through the juvenile justice system. On July 1, 1889, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Juvenile Court Act, creating the world's first juvenile court (Swain 36). Although the U. S. juvenile court has changed considerably since the beginning in 1889, the overall goal is still the same, "To act a would a wise and loving parent helping a child with problems" (Court 26). The court was created due to reports that 8-year-old children were being abused and neglected in adult jails.
Since the beginning, the system has emphasized that delinquent youth should be educated and rehabilitated with punishment used only as a last resort. Of course the program has its flaws, but it has proven to be the most effective form of juvenile crime rehabilitation available. "Without the support and the second chance the juvenile system offers, some of our brightest, most productive citizens could be locked up in prison cells today" (Swain 29). Marr 8 If this solution were to be adopted, the adult crime rate would eventually drop to an all time low for America. It would drop because the kids who go through the juvenile system will be learning how to be law abiding productive citizens instead of criminally educated people like those sent to adult prisons.
Sending children who commit nonviolent acts of crime to adult prison is wrong and destroys their future. Some may believe that these kids are getting what they deserve because they may have also destroyed someone else's future. The point that this paper is trying to express is to not send kids who commit nonviolent crimes to prisons. However, children who murder or cause physical harm to other human beings should be dealt with in an entirely different system other than the juvenile justice system. Hopefully this paper has convinced people that locking kids up with criminal masterminds in adult prison ruins their chances of ever leading a crime free life.
The evils of the prison system on children can be summed up like this, "Today most of the guy's I hung out with are now serving long prison terms. Those who get out mostly go right back in less than a year. Inside, they learn more about crime and make new connections" (Gaither 22). Marr 9 Work's Cited American Civil Liberties Union. "Defusing The Myth: Prosecuting Children as Adults Doesn't Work to Decrease Juvenile Crime." web Hedges, Micael. "Trying Juveniles as Adults Doesn't Deter and May be racist." Pg.
2-3 Corpus Christi Caller Times September 28, 1999. Justice Policy Institute. "Congress Juvenile Crime Bill would have Robbed Them of Their Second Chances." web Lemmon, David. "Juvenile Crime Control Act Will Set Stiffer Penalties for Juvenile Crime." web Orlando, Frank.
"The Florida Experiment." Florida Fact Sheet. http: web Streib, Victor L. "Juvenile Crime." Encarta Encyclopedia 2001 edition. Swain, Rachel. 100 Years of Juvenile Justice: Prominent Former Juvenile Offender Salute Centennial of Children's Court. web Unknown.
"Clinton unveils anti gang plan." http. // web Marr 1 Thesis Statement: Sending kids to adult prisons is wrong and uneccesarily destroys their futures. I. Problems with incarceration A. There are hundreds of children in the Florida prison system.
B. Incarcerating youth doesn't work. C. Contributing to the problem II. Possible solutions A. Send trouble teens to reform schools.
B. Help criminals by putting them in a rehabilitation center. III. Juvenile Justice System A. Helping criminal youths since 1889. B.
Has a higher success rate than any other program. IV. Effects of Solution A. Kids rehabilitated in the Juvenile Justice system will learn how to become better citizens. B. Overcrowding in the prison system will reduce as more nonviolent juvenile offenders are sent to juvenile centers for detention.
Bibliography Work's Cited American Civil Liberties Union. "Defusing The Myth: Prosecuting Children as Adults Doesn't Work to Decrease Juvenile Crime." web Hedges, Micael. "Trying Juveniles as Adults Doesn't Deter and May be racist." Pg. 2-3 Corpus Christi Caller Times September 28, 1999. Justice Policy Institute.
"Congress Juvenile Crime Bill would have Robbed Them of Their Second Chances." web Lemmon, David. "Juvenile Crime Control Act Will Set Stiffer Penalties for Juvenile Crime." web Orlando, Frank. "The Florida Experiment." Florida Fact Sheet. http: web Streib, Victor L. "Juvenile Crime." Encarta Encyclopedia 2001 edition. Swain, Rachel.
100 Years of Juvenile Justice: Prominent Former Juvenile Offender Salute Centennial of Children's Court. web Unknown. "Clinton unveils anti gang plan." http. // web >.