Read and summarize the article.
The first paragraph will be a summary of the article, tell me what it is about. (main idea, with supporting details)
The second paragraph will answer the following questions:
–What should happen to the 11 year old? Explain why you feel this way.
–How old should a person have to be to be charged as an adult? Explain why.
–What type of crimes should be considered for charging children as adults? Explain why?
–Should the parents of the 11 year old be held responsible for anything? If so, what and how should they be punished?(CNN)How young is “old enough” to be an adult criminal?
An 11-year-old boy in Tennessee is facing first-degree murder charges in the death of
an 8-year-old he shot after he asked to see her puppy and she said no. The boy used
his father’s 12-gauge shotgun, taking it from an unlocked closet, according to a story in
the Washington Post. The local prosecutor will decide whether to charge the boy as an
Nobody with a soul can seriously ignore the tragic nature of the death of any child.
However, two wrongs do not make a right; prosecuting a very young child for murder
and sending him to prison for life is tragic in and of itself. It essentially takes the life of
another child and causes unimaginable heartache for others.
For centuries American and English common law held that children under age 14 were
not legally capable of forming criminal intent. For any crime to occur, there must be the
convergence of what is known as the “actus reus” (the guilty act) and the “mens rea”
(the guilty mind, also known as criminal intent).
Without these two necessary pieces, a crime does not exist. State legislatures across
America have largely changed the traditional common-law idea that children are unable
to formulate criminal intent. There is no national standard in determining at what age a
child can be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system. The result is that
approximately 200,000 American children are charged and incarcerated every year — as
adults, according to the Open Society Foundations.
Fourteen states have no minimum age at which children can be prosecuted as adults,
according to the Equal Justice Initiative. In some cases children younger than 10 have been
prosecuted as adults.
I suggest that except for extraordinary circumstances, no child under the age of at least 17
should be sentenced to lengthy incarceration in adult jails. It is beyond debate that the
human brain does not reach anything close to maturity until the early to mid 20s.
Therefore it stands to reason that an adolescent or prepubescent child cannot understand
the nature and the consequences of their actions. Why, therefore, in a rational society
would anyone think it is appropriate to apply adult consequences to the choices made by
The answer? Emotional knee-jerk reactions by politicians who pass laws without
considering the bigger picture.
For example consider the case of little Amy Yates, age 8 at the time she died, strangled in
Georgia in 2004.
At the time it was widely believed that her 12-year-old neighbor Jonathan Adams was guilty
of the crime. According to Georgia law at the time the maximum penalty Adams could face
was two years in confinement due to his age. He entered a plea without admitting guilt but it
is now widely believed he was in fact innocent.
Nevertheless, the Georgia Legislature responded almost immediately and unanimously out
of emotion and passed what is known as “Amy’s Law” which would have provided for five
Every state in the United States has some procedure in place to prosecute children as
adults under certain circumstances.
And there can be no doubt that sometimes it is appropriate to do so — especially in cases
where the offender is somewhat older and it can be shown that person is not capable of
rehabilitation and where there is strong evidence of planning. Sometimes there may be
evidence the person knew and understood the nature and consequences of their actions,
which could justify an adult prosecution
But the fact remains that children are children — they are not adults and their brains do not
work the same as an adult. Just ask any parent. Children cannot enlist in the military.
Children — indeed, adults under 21, cannot legally order a beer. Children cannot enter into
contracts. Children cannot make legal decisions for themselves, but they CAN be held to
adult standards if they are charged with crimes.
And almost beyond belief, children can be executed for crimes they commit at very young
Setting aside for the moment that the punishment may sometimes fit the crime, it is worth
noting that children in adult prisons do you not fare well at all. Approximately 10,000
children are held in adult jails and prisons in the United States.
These are kids who are five times more likely to be raped or otherwise sexually assaulted
than in juvenile facilities. The risk of suicide is likewise much higher for juveniles in adult
jails. This raises the issue of whether prolonged incarceration of children violates the Eighth
Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
There is little if any evidence to suggest that treating juveniles as adults in the criminal
justice system decreases crime or has any deterrent effect. In fact, what evidence does
exist suggests the opposite. Studies show that incarcerating children more often than not
results in higher rates of recidivism; essentially, it turns children into hardened criminals.
But I don’t need studies to tell me this because I have seen it for myself.
I have worked in and around the criminal justice system for about 28 years. I was trained to
believe that juvenile courts were courts of rehabilitation rather than punishment. I was
trained to believe that children were salvageable whereas sometimes adults are not.
I still believe that to be the case, but in my lifetime there has been a drastic shift from
notions of rehabilitation to quests for revenge and vengeance regardless of the age of the
As a parent I know without question that children do not think about the world around them
the way we adults do. They have little if any perspective and they often use poor judgment.
It may not be possible to come up with a bright line rule defining the age at which a child
can be tried as an adult. It should depend on a case-by-case analysis based on the child’s
age and other relevant factors. This decision should be left to judges with the help of
psychiatrists and psychologists rather than ad-hoc legislative determinations. After all, that’s
why we have judges — to make decisions based on the totality of the circumstances.
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