Friday, November 06, 2009

Punishing Children

The whole reason we treat kids differently from adults is because we don't think kids are as capable as adults at making the right decisions; and there is much science to back that up.  Yet, why is it that when kids commit heinous crimes, crimes which would indicate that the perpetrator really doesn't know what he's doing, we decide to treat them like adults?

Case in point:
With community outrage over the attacks swirling around the case, District Attorney Dolores Carr announced she would try the three juvenile defendants as adults,
Carr said her office chose to charge the juveniles as adults because of a combination of factors, including their gang membership and the fact it was "an unprovoked group attack" on the two trick-or-treaters. The defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

And frankly, I don't have any decent answers for this.  No, I don't think that violent people should have a Get Out of Jail Free card if they're underage.  And of course, I think our entire judicial system is in need of a major overhaul, as it generally seems to make people worse than they were before they were in it and the concept of rehabilitation is a complete joke.  As things are, our judicial system is solely designed to punish bad people while proving that they deserved to be punished.  And that's just not something I agree with.

But the main point is that the idea that teenagers are vastly different from adults is exposed as a total fraud in cases like this.  You're old enough to get a life sentence, but you're not old enough to vote.  Similarly, you're not old enough to have sex, but you're old enough to be forced into becoming a parent.  And if anything, our standards are backwards: The less capable a teen is of making a wise decision, the more we want to punish them. 

And if that's the standard, then fine, apply it evenly.  If we think teens are capable of making adult decisions, then when they make bad adult decisions (ie, killing someone), you don't get to punish them like an adult.  But instead, we give them the rights of a child, but the punishment of an adult.  And they can't complain because they're not old enough to know any better.  And worst of all, we train them to be obedient little robots who follow orders, and act surprised when they can't think for themselves and make their own decisions.  Well, duh!  If you punish someone every time they make a decision you don't agree with, you shouldn't be surprised if they stop making decisions.  Anyone who's ever had a micromanaging boss knows that it doesn't pay to act independently.

Overall, I just think it's a major mistake to treat anyone as if their age, gender, or whatever automatically defines who they are or what they can do.  Because I've definitely known small children who had their act together more than many adults.  And I've always found that if you treat people with respect, you get better results from them, even if they don't deserve it.  And yeah, the use of "children" in the title is a joke, as teenagers aren't children.  But as long as we have people who insist that sixteen year olds are still "children," then we might as well call these brutal gang members children too.  Kids.  They're trying to give life sentences to kids.

1 comment:

Tomas said...

Seeking retribution for crimes committed against us, is just the "christian way". Don't yah know?!