Trial By Error: Teens Tried As Adults
According to the Huffington Post juveniles who are sentenced to serve time in adult prisons are more likely to experience recidivism, which is defined as “the chronic tendency to commit criminal acts.”
A study found that juveniles who spent time in adult prison system had 34 percent higher rearrests than juveniles who were sentenced to time in the juvenile prison system. The study also points out that minors who face time in adult prisons not only commit more crimes but also often commit more violent crimes.
Time spent by a juvenile in an adult prison has been attributed to long term harmful effects on the mental health of youth. The author cites a documentary, “Stickup Kid” , which depicts Alonza Thomas, who was one of the first minors to be convicted under Proposition 21, which allows minors to be tried as adults in California. The documentary highlights Thomas’s struggle as he spent the majority of his time in mental health treatment facilities and solitary confinement. Today, Thomas os still dependent on medication for depression, anxiety and psychosis to cope with the “psychological duress” of his time spent in an adult prison system.
The trend of longer sentences and the transfer of juvenile offenders to the adult system gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s as the amount of crimes committed by youth increased. This system was first used in an effort to deter other minors from committing similar crimes. However, that has not been the case. Robert L. Johnson, dean of the New Jersey Medical School, a member of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services said:
“Those laws have not deterred other youths from committing crimes, nor have they rehabilitated the youths sentenced under them.
Not only does it not deter youth crime, it actually makes them more violent. It may salve our desire to punish. But don’t get that confused with rehabilitation. Don’t make the mistake of believing that punishment will help anything.”
Being that the juvenile correction system and the adult correction system have a slightly different set of goals they cannot be adequately substituted for one another. To truly reform an individual who has a criminal history you must utillize the proper form of punishment or risk losing that individual forever to a life of crime or mental illness. #LiveLifeLite