Revisiting the Controversy: should Juveniles be Tried as Adults?

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Revisiting the Controversy: should Juveniles be Tried as Adults?

This essay will debate whether juveniles should be tried as adults in the legal system. It will discuss the implications of trying juveniles as adults, considering factors like the nature of the crime, the age of the offender, and psychological maturity. The piece will explore arguments from legal, psychological, and ethical perspectives, and will examine the potential impact on the juvenile’s future and society. PapersOwl showcases more free essays that are examples of Crime.

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How much more does the juvenile delinquency rate has to rise before we realize action is required? The Juvenile Court System was created so young offenders could be dealt with individually and tried more effectively. The system can provide rehabilitation for any juvenile seen to be transgressing too much. Ideally, the youth are taking advantage of the system and committing violent crimes because they believe it will be easier for them to avoid a stricter sentence (Berg, 2020). Losing people to death, personal security, and resources is a hard reality, but it should not be mistaken for something that cannot be changed.

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Young offenders may not fully understand the gravity of their violent crimes and the impact they can have on victims. But ones who commit crimes like these should put themselves in the position of the bereaved, imagining what the victims’ loved ones feel for the pain of loss and how horrified they are when faced with this type of violence. While many people may disagree with how the justice system handles cases where a juvenile is accused of a crime, it is helpful to remember that age is not always a determinant. In some cases, minors are dangerous, and their actions get overlooked. But every person who breaks the law has to be treated equally and given justice regardless of age.

Research supports that juveniles should be tried as adults in some cases. In many arguments against the policy, it is considered a benefit of the law, and more time is given to improving juveniles’ comprehension capacity. Foremost, bringing children charged with crimes into the adult system is beneficial because they minimize and end offenses committed by minors. In 2017, 810,000 people were arrested in the US solely for offenses, according to the Office of Justice Programs (Lehmann, Chiricos, and Bales, 2018, 574). This number is down 58% since 2008, so it remains very high. Adopting this judicial approach against young offenders could see fewer teen crimes, which is a good thing to do. With the increased advocacy for human rights within the criminal justice system, juvenile courts are now outdated and very lenient, which poses a significant challenge. Today’s youth are escaping the courts and getting away with crimes because they know they will not feel that much consequence. The ones that escaped the punishment could end up doing severe crimes like murder or mass violence. When the offenses are minor or legal, the youth will continue to commit them. However, because of behavioral monitoring programs that implement strict punishments on regular criminals, young offenders will think twice before committing a crime.

Secondly, weeding out juvenile offenders by assigning them to adult courts allows justice for the offender and the victim’s loved ones. When a young offender is tried, the victims’ families will be able to rest a bit easier knowing the criminal is behind bars. They will feel much safer knowing that the person responsible for taking their loved one’s life or harming them no longer poses a threat to them. Regardless of the criminal’s age, the family and the general public will still feel in danger when the criminal is not charged and demand protection. These families and the victim will feel traumatized and be forced to stay alert and watch every move they make to stay safe.

A justice system is created to stop criminals before they can commit more crimes. But when juveniles are let off easy, they learn that their actions have no consequence. It is a wrong lesson and will teach them not to care about repercussions as they age. Eren and Mocan assert that people with criminal backgrounds often return to crime after their release (2021, p. 39). Different types of crime can manifest for different criminality levels, and impacts range from mild to severe. As they enter adulthood, teens are often prone to finding themselves in legal trouble due to the severity of their offenses. More so than ever, lethal violence is taking place. It can be difficult for people ages 16 to 24 because they are most likely victims of violence. All minors are tried in juvenile courts and are only convicted if they are charged in an adult court, where the minor must go before a jury. In adult court, the juvenile is tried in front of a jury where there is more than one point of view. If a jury agrees, the minor will most likely be punished.

Notwithstanding, there are disadvantages of indicting young offenders in an adult court. Firstly, it is a problem to try juveniles as adults because their competency is not developed at the same level as an adult. The lack of understanding about what is happening and the consequences of their behavior might lead to high risks for them. One of the significant concerns with trying juveniles as adults are that they might end up in a dangerous situation. After the young offender is charged, they will be stuck in a jail cell with adults and might be exposed to many potential dangers. According to Regoli (2019), keeping juvenile offenders in adult facilities poses genuine risks to the safety and well-being of those involved. Incidences of physical assault, sexual abuse, and suicide are all higher at this stage. So many people are against trying juveniles as adults. They worry that such a significant change in the justice system would make it unsafe for those under 18.

Secondly, minors commit less severe crimes, leading to less impact. Essentially, juveniles are emotionally immature and might not clearly understand their crimes. It is not necessarily an improvement to keep minors locked up in jail. With inmates losing hope and no rehab available, they may become more violent with time, and instead of committing minor crimes, they might carry out more serious ones (Schwartz, 2018, p. 47). There is a risk that they may never change while in jail and ultimately lose the opportunity to prove that their minds can be rehabilitated and changed for the better. The whole point of putting them behind bars was to teach them a lesson, but there is always the chance this could have adverse outcomes like those mentioned above.

Opposers of this judicial approach against juvenile delinquency argue that making mistakes when younger is a normal part of being a teen or young adult, and it happens to even the most severe adults. Perhaps they were caught up doing what their friends did or were just mad (Buss, 2022, p. 847). For everything an individual has done, it is only fair that they get a punishment. The crime committed by these defendants is no different. They should have to serve time for their offense, but jails are not always the answer. Even adults make mistakes and do stuff they should not do, but minors are still learning what is right and wrong.

Ultimately, letting criminals walk scot-free regardless of age is a time bomb. People need to be able to learn from the mistakes they’ve made, and juveniles must receive a punishment that reflects the scale of their crimes as soon as possible. Crime rates could get lower if minors are punished for committing crimes. It is because even though they may be young and currently avoid punishment compared to adults, no future crime must be executed. Thus, the judicial approach of charging young offenders as grown-ups would protect people from future violent crimes like the ones seen in contemporary American society.


  1. Berg, A. (2020) “Bright lines in juvenile justice,” The journal of political philosophy, (jopp.12235). doi: 10.1111/jopp.12235.
  2. Buss, E. (2022) ‘Kids Are Not So Different: The Path from Juvenile Exceptionalism to Prison Abolition’, University of Chicago Law Review, 89(4), pp. 843–900. Available at: (Accessed: 7 September 2022).
  3. Eren, O. and Mocan, N. (2021) “Juvenile punishment, high school graduation, and adult crime: Evidence from idiosyncratic judge harshness,” The Review of Economics and Statistics, 103(1), pp. 34–47. doi: 10.1162/rest_a_00872.
  4. Lehmann, P. S., Chiricos, T. and Bales, W. D. (2018) “Juveniles on trial: Mode of conviction and the adult court sentencing of transferred juveniles,” crime and delinquency, 64(5), pp. 563–586. doi: 10.1177/0011128717714203.
  5. Regoli, N. (2019) 22 should juveniles be tried as adults pros and consConnectUS. Available at: (Accessed: September 7, 2022).
  6. Schwartz, R. G. (2018) “A 21st century developmentally appropriate juvenile probation approach,” juvenile & family court journal, 69(1), pp. 41–54. doi: 10.1111/jfcj.12108.
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Revisiting the Controversy: Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?. (2020, Mar 06). Retrieved from