The Youth Criminal Justice Act came into force on April 1, 2003. Some individuals argue that the youth justice system is too lenient with youth and that youth should be punished in the same way as adults. I disagree with this perspective and here is why:
1. Youth have a better chance of reforming themselves than adults when provided the right tools.
Since youth are still impressionable, they can be guided in the right direction versus an adult who is far less impressionable and has formed their belief system. Furthermore, unlike adults, youths do not have a voice in the youth criminal justice system as their parents make decisions on their behalf. Hence, youth do not partake in the justice system as adults do. Finally, youth crime usually ends by age 24 but adult crime continues.
2. If youth are exposed to adult criminals in adult penitentiaries the result will be higher crime rates among youth and exploitation of youth.
With exposure to adult criminals, youth will form an adult mentality toward crime. Thus the youth will come out of jail equipped with more knowledge of how to commit crimes. For instance, when the Youth Offenders Act was in place youth were placed into adult jails which resulted in many youths being exploited and mistreated by adult inmates.
3. Youths aren’t adults.
The brain of a youth is not as developed as an adult brain. Youth tend to act more on impulse and cannot evaluate the seriousness of a crime as well as adults. Youth are also more impressionable than adults due to peer pressure and have a need to feel like they belong.
4. Lack of knowledge.
Although youths are aware that there are negative consequences for breaking the law, not many youths know exactly what those consequences entail. Similarly, youth aren’t always aware when their rights are being violated for instance their right to remain silent. Consequently, youths often incriminate themselves. Finally, youth often believe they are powerless within the legal realm due to their lack of knowledge of the criminal justice system prior to entering it.
On the surface it seems very simple – “you do the crime, you do the time” but it’s just not that simple when it comes to youth. There are multiple contributing factors that need to be assessed before coming to verdict. Youths have special needs and challenges that need to be addressed which cannot be achieved in the adult criminal justice system.
Did you find this enlightening? Did you learn something new? Leave a comment below.