In the past two decades, the media has covered violent crimes committed by Juveniles extensively. Such include homicides and other serious crimes. In response to the soaring crime rates, U.S. governors and legislatures sought to put in place stringent measures of dealing with violent crimes perpetrated by juveniles (Torbet & Szymanski, 1998). Notable during this study was the fact that many states have adopted a modifying trend where specific crimes committed by juvenile offenders are transferred to adult criminal courts.
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Such transfers are attained through judicial waivers, legislative exclusion, or prosecutorial-direct filing (Torbet & Szymanski, 1998). According to Butts & Harrell (1998), however, the trend of transferring juvenile offenders raises a serious question regarding whether underage offenders should be treated as criminals or delinquents.
It is also notable that the public outrage and the call for underage offenders favor that they are treated as adult offenders regardless of their age, depending on the intensity of the crime committed. A case in point is the March 1998 school shooting that left four students and a teacher dead in a school in Arkansas. Despite the perpetrators of the crime being 13 and 11 years old, respectively, the public opinion at the time was that the juvenile criminal system would not punish them enough, and therefore, opinions favored subjecting the two to an adult criminal justice process and even capital punishment (Butts & Harell, 1998; Moon et al., 2000).
Regardless of the nature of the crime, it is notable that children offenders and adolescents have cognitive, emotional, and social differences than adults. This, therefore, means that judges and prosecutors may need to handle cases filed against young offenders differently. However, with many states taking significant steps that indicate that the juvenile justice system may be abolished sooner, it appears that the justice system will need to make special provisions for the young offenders within the mainstream criminal court systems (Champion, 2005).
Judging by the general opinions published in different literature on this issue, this study recognizes that lawmakers are caught up between opinions from youth advocates who defend the juvenile justice system and hardliners who believe that the best way to curb criminal activity among underage children is by trying offenders within the underage bracket in the adult justice system. Previous studies have focused on getting public opinion regarding the subject.
A previous study by Kurlychek & Johnson (2004) comparing the outcomes of juvenile sentencing in adult criminal courts suggest that juveniles exposed to such usually ended up receiving harsher treatments than their counterparts tried in the juvenile justice system. It was also apparent that the age of the offender interacted with other conditions such as offense type, the severity of the offense and previous criminal records to affect the outcome of the court case (Kurlychek & Johnson, 2004).
This study focuses on establishing whether past juvenile offenders who were subjected received justice or the proper punishment in the eyes of the public. The study will use a questionnaire based methodology, and the questions therein will be administered a sample population in areas where juvenile offenders have been subjected to the adult justice system. The objective of this study is to find out if the perception of the adult population in juvenile crime areas changes considerably overtime. The data collected from this study will be evaluated against results from earlier studies regarding the same in order to draw comparisons.
Butts, J. & Harrell, A. (1998). Delinquents or Criminals? Policy options for young offenders. Urban Institute 1-10.
Champion, D. J. (Ed.). (2005). Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology. New Jersey: Prentice hall.
Kurlychek, M. C. & Johnson, B. D. (1998). The Juvenile Penalty: A comparison of Juvenile and Young Adult sentencing Outcomes in criminal court. Criminology 42 (2), 485-497.
Moon, M.M., Wright, J. P., Cullen. F.T. & Pealer, J. A. (2000). Putting Kids to Death: Specifying Public support for juvenile capital Punishment. Justice Quarterly 17 (4).
Torbet, P. & Szymanski, L. (1998). State Legislative responses to violent crime: 1996-97 Update. Juvenile Justice Bulletin 1-16.