Juveniles away for life
When compared to other industrialized countries around the world, America has the largest number of incarcerated youth. Moreover, sentencing criteria for juveniles tried in the adult system are different from state to state. Juvenile sentencing laws in America have been under fire for many years. The US imprisons more young people at a higher rate than any other nation. This column argues that, at a tremendous cost, incarcerating juveniles only serves to reduce their educational attainment and increase the probability of incarceration as an adult.
It’s not difficult to see why there is a strong incentive to put a person convicted of murder behind bars for life. Such sentences eliminate the possibility that an offender could murder again.
The Sentencing Project released findings from a survey of people sentenced to life in prison as juveniles and found the defendants in the above cases were not atypical
79% witnessed violence in their homes regularly
32% grew up in public housing
40% had been enrolled in special education classes
Fewer than half were attending school at the time of their offence
47% were physically abused
80% of girls reported histories of physical abuse and 77% of girls reported histories of sexual abuse
We want them to take control of their lives, own problems and quit being a parasite on us…So we make them totally dependent on us
We want them to be non-violent…So we put them where violence is all around them
We want them to be kind and loving people…So we subject them to hatred and cruelty
We want them to quit being the tough guy…So we put them where the tough guy is respected
We want them quit hanging around losers…So we put all the losers in the state under one roof.
We want them to have self-worth…So we destroy their self-worth
We want them to be responsible…So we take away all responsibility
We want them to be positive and constructive…So we degrade them and make them useless
We want them to be trustworthy…So we put them where there is no trust.
We want them to quit exploiting us…So we put them where they exploit each other
Nevertheless, the effects of incarceration proves that maybe imprisoning juveniles is not the best way to discipline them. It proves to decrease teens motivations to graduate and get a higher salary while also leaving kids depressed and becoming familiar with anxieties.
Researchers have estimated that it costs society 1.5 to 1.8 million dollars to care for one habitual offender from adolescence through adulthood So even if we cannot agree on this issue in terms of social justice, surely we could agree that spending an exorbitant amount of money to keep youth justice-involved might not be the best allocation of our limited funds.