Some people show at a young age that they will never have the ability to contribute to society on a positive level. Take, for example, the 11-year-old Jordan Brown from Pennsylvania who is accused of shooting his father’s girlfriend to death. Police say the boy premeditated the murder, hiding a youth-sized shotgun under a blanket as he walked into the woman’s room and shot her as she slept. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. The boy is now being charged as an adult with criminal homicide and homicide of an unborn child. Some have argued that he should be tried as a juvenile, and treated on the basis that he can still be transformed into a contributing member of society. I disagree-anyone capable of shooting someone at point-blank range, no matter the age, should be tried solely on the severity of their crime.
A prime case of the “children should not be charged as adults” concept gone wrong is the 2001 case of Lionel Tate. He was tried for the beating death of a 6-year-old girl, and, at 14-years-old, became the youngest U.S. citizen ever sentenced to life in prison. Still, many argued that this young man was not fully capable of knowing right from wrong and could still be helped. The case brought so much criticism on the state of Florida, where Tate was charged, that in 2004 the court decided to overturn the conviction. He ended up back in prison only three months after his release, for pulling a gun on a pizza delivery man. In cases such as this, there is very little hope that the juvenile can be saved.
Even before the Tate case, the U.S. judicial system had received major scrutiny for the expanded age bracket at which juveniles could be tried in adult criminal court. Reports done by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, show this expansion began happening in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The OJJDP reported a 68 percent increase of serious crimes such as murder and assault committed by juveniles from 1988-1992. In order to control this statistical spike, harsher punishments were instilled to those of a younger age bracket. Pennsylvania law states anyone above the age of 10, if suspected of murder, can be tried as an adult. In fact, the state does not even include a criminal homicide count in juvenile court.
Also, the juvenile detention system in Pennsylvania only has jurisdiction until the offender is 21 years of age. Any person, no matter how young, who has the ability to premeditate a murder and maliciously take the life of another human, will not be cured by the time they are 21. People who do such a thing are mentally unstable, and should not be kept among normal society. For cases like Jordan Brown, opting to treat the offender as a child is dangerous. Just as adult murderers are thought to be extremely disturbed individuals you wouldn’t want roaming the streets, children murderers are as well.
When it comes to juveniles who commit serious crimes, age should be nothing but a number – the real determining factor should be the maturity of the crime committed.