In all of the 50 states that comprise the United States of America, youths under the age of 18 can be tried in an adult criminal court system through several types of juvenile transfer laws. In Colorado, adolescence as young as 12 years old can be adjudicated as adults, as a part of the options given by a juvenile court judge. Once young people are removed from the juvenile system, they are more likely to be convicted and characteristically receive harsher verdicts than their peers who remain in the juvenile court system and are charged with similar crimes. This practice destabilizes the purpose of the juvenile court system and chases punishment rather than the needed intent of rehabilitation. Incarcerating our teenagers leaves them more likely to be exposed to extreme forms of violence, fall victim to different forms of abuse, and suffer from mental illness. Additionally, laws that permit our children in their formative years to be tried as adults replicate and strengthen the racial inequalities that depict the justice system in the United States. Although juveniles should be held accountable for their actions, and liable for the crime, the juvenile justice system should be designed to regulate the consequences. Therefore, teenagers should not be arbitrated in the same courts as adults.
Colorado is one of only 4 states in which district attorneys have such a vast amount of discretion, to indict offenders who are 14 to 16 years old in adult court, deprived of a legal hearing on the matter, in a procedure branded ‘direct file.’ In the majority of those cases, the adolescents never stand before a judge and a jury. Statistics show that 95 percent of the direct file cases have a plea bargain as the outcome. A staggering 1,800 direct file cases have been filed in Colorado between 1999 and 2010, and roughly 85% of these instances comprise lower to middle-class felonies. Consequently, only 5 percent were essentially first-degree murder cases. The direct file was envisioned to be used in only the most serious cases, however, it is frequently employed in lower felony cases towards teenagers who have had no previous criminal record, and disproportionately in situations concerning respondents of color. An inquiry conducted by the Colorado Independent discovered that an uneven percentage of the young people tried as adults are ethnic minority groups. This number turns out to be even more disproportionate when you look at the small percentage of ethnic groups that comprise Colorado’s population.
Adolescence of color is overrepresented at each phase of the juvenile court system. Widespread racial biases are apparent in the way that minors of color are disciplined, patrolled, detained, sentenced, and imprisoned. These disproportions persevere even after monitoring the variables like offense brutality and whether or not there is a prior criminal record. Youth of color have a higher probability of being tried as adults vs Caucasian youths, even after being charged with comparable crimes. Presently, an assessed 250,000 youths are sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year in the United States. On any given day, 10,000 adolescence are detained or imprisoned in adult jails and prisons. Studies prove that teenagers apprehended and placed in adult facilities are thirty-six times more likely to commit suicide and are at the highest risk of sexual victimization.
Those who oppose the notion that minors should only be sent to juvenile court have claimed that if minors who commit vicious misconduct were tried as adults and penalized as such, the number of violent crimes committed by adolescence would lessen. Subsequently, they make the claim that in the future, the number of vehement crimes overall would decline, as harder penalties and sentences would be set in place to keep violent offenders in prison for lengthier sentences. ‘Grown enough to commit a crime, adult enough to do time,” is a shared expression utilized by individuals, when they streamline the subject of young criminals being treated to the adult version of our justice system. However, the Juvenile Court system structure is designed to shield the youths from themselves. If it cannot achieve this goal, then all confidence is lost.
Trying adolescents as adults represents a double standard. Impartiality is a benefit that every human being pursues in different situations and one that is protected by the constitution of the United States. The law applies reason and deliberation in developing protocols that guide minors. It contends that persons under the age of eighteen years old are immature, negligent, and extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Furthermore, psychologists in pact support the belief that adolescent’s mental development is not at its highest, hence they do not always fully grasp right and wrong. In this respect, the government forbids adolescents from adult responsibilities such as voting, joining the military, smoking, and drinking. Thus, believing that they are not capable of the above actions, and then holding them to the ideals of adults is prejudicial, as it is very distinct that juveniles are not adults, and also contravenes the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Rendering to this Amendment, every single individual is protected against excessive bail and fines and from receiving cruel and unusual punishment. An example was the 2012 Miller v. Alabama case, where the Supreme Court pronounced that the sentencing of life without parole for adolescents seventeen and below, was unconstitutional (Supreme Court, 2012). Being that the Supreme Court is the uppermost court that infers the law, charging minors as adults results in noncompliance with the Constitution, which in itself is a criminal offense.
Prosecution of juveniles as adults signify a failure in our justice system. This system subjectifies the youngest and the less advantaged members of society to a series of violence and destruction deprived of rehabilitation and compassion. Nonetheless, due to the extreme nature of the criminalities committed, the system chooses otherwise. Placing juveniles in adult courts is wrong, as not only does it infringe on their constitutional rights, it introduces them to all methods of harm and exploitation while failing to caution society on the ensuing human beings the progression produces and generates a more noteworthy problem of recidivism. Albeit, teenagers should on no occasion go before the adult justice system.