Whats My Age Again



Children have become increasingly violent since the 1970s. Today more gangs exist and homicides occur than in the past thirty years. Crime rates have only dropped slightly in the five previous years (Vieregge n.p.). Now that more juvenile delinquents are entering the justice system, the question arises as to how they should be tried. Being tried in a juvenile court for a serious offense is much like a slap on the wrist. Sure, they can be sent to an adult correctional facility if sentenced to it in a juvenile court, but the longest amount of served will be twenty years. In contrast, trying a juvenile as an adult guarantees that the youth will be held accountable for his or her actions. Children commit violent acts throughout the United States and believe that they cannot be held responsible for their actions; such a practice should change and violent juvenile should be used as examples to the rest of the country’s youth by being tried as adults in the United States Justice System.
Overall, the crimes of juveniles have become much larger and the ages of the delinquents have dropped considerably since the first juvenile court was established in 1899. The main purpose of this court was to deal with miscreants that threw bricks or rocks through windows (Butterfield 154). Today, the juvenile courts have a much harder task at hand. In 1985 and 1986, Howard Snyder found an increase of 75 percent among juveniles for crimes involving drugs (Hurst 2). The crime rates seem to have sky-rocketed ever since the early 1980s. The fastest growing crime has become possession of a loaded gun. Yet, the youth of America are not just carrying those loaded guns and not using them. The year of 1991 produced armed robbery exceeding drug-related offenses (Kramer 213). The two previous years had brought a 26 percent increase in juveniles arrested for murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Those same two years lead to a 17 percent increase in aggravated assault (214). As the reader can clearly see, crimes committed by juveniles have drastically risen in the past twenty years. Today, with a little over twenty-two million Americans between the ages of thirteen and nineteen (Vieregge n.p.), many criminologists expect a new surge in crime (Butterfield 154).
Among these new delinquents is an alarmingly large number of young girls. Between the years of 1965 and 1985, the arrest rate of young women involved in serious crimes grew ten times faster than the arrest of males for the same crime. Now, fifteen years after that initial study, girls make up one in every four arrests for serious crimes, as opposed to the one in six such arrests twenty years ago. According to the American Correctional Association, if the trend of females becoming increasingly participant in violent crimes continues, young girls will embody 50 percent of all juvenile arrests before the 21st century is half over (Hurst 2).
Just as the number of delinquent girls has increased, so has the number of delinquents for the African American race. A 1994 study of National Youth Survey data found that twenty year-old African Americans were five-times more likely to be accused of a violent crime than a Caucasian of the same age. This same study suggests that the statistics are the way they are because young African Americans receive fewer economic opportunities, thus leading to a likelihood that they will fall victim to gang-related activities (Geraghty 38). The number of delinquent African Americans may be related to the recent changes in the court system.
Due to the changes in crime, the court system has had to change accordingly. As stated earlier, the original juvenile court was created in 1899 (Butterfield 154). Eight hundred years prior to that, in 12th century England, under the reign of Henry II, no distinction was made between adult criminals and juvenile offenders. The were place the in the same rat-infested jails under the same revolting conditions (Stewart 7). The early 1900s brought about that much needed change in the court system, although it was not until the early 1960s that the change became drastic. For the first time, juveniles could attain the services of a lawyer and were given the same protections afforded to adults (Kramer 212-213). Because the crimes of youths