Part 3 – Why Youths Should Not Be Tried As Adults

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.

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2 comments

  1. There is a much higher chance of recovery and growth (as your first comment stated) for youth who have committed crimes relative to adults in the same or similar situations. Many of their actions are driven by impulse and extreme emotion; if guided correctly, these youth can mature into strong individuals. There is still hope. However, treating them as adults may take away this option and send them into a downward spiral perpetuating the negative cycle. That being said, one interesting perspective that someone brought up to me was if I would feel the same if I had a loved one who was severely hurt by a youth – would I want them to be more severely punished now that I was personally invested in the situation? What are your thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment KBedi.

      To answer your question, I believe we would definitely feel differently if we were personally harmed by a youth or someone we loved was harmed by a youth. We would want the youth to be punished in the strictest manner and essentially seek retribution. That’s a natural human reaction and exactly why we have the law in place.

      The law is meant to carry out fair and just sentences when individuals are unable to make those decisions on their own. The law looks at the facts, precedents and contributing factors that the average person without a legal background may not consider. The criminal justice system is based on objective decisions while taking into consideration aggravating factors, which is not possible when you are blinded by rage. We don’t want one individual having a harsher sentence because the victim/victim’s family member reacted to it differently. We need to maintain consistency in the law otherwise it results in tyranny. We can’t have victims/victims’ families dictating punishments as it will result in chaos.
      On the flip side, what if it was your youth/child that committed the crime would you want them to be treated differently/ more harshly due to someone else’s sentiments?

      Liked by 1 person

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