Você está na página 1de 4

Harwell 1

Trinity Harwell

Mrs. Bowyer

Expository Writing, Period 2

27 February 2017

Vulnerable and Underdeveloped: Why Courts Should Not Charge Teenagers as Adults

It is universally accepted that when one commits a crime he or she should receive

consequences comparable to the crime itself in level of intensity. However, a point of

controversy is the idea that the appropriate consequences for a particular crime should change

due to the age of the offender. This ideology dictates that courts recognize anyone under the age

of eighteen as a child and grant them the opportunity to plead for lighter consequences than an

adult would, having committed the same crime. People who oppose this ideology argue that high

school aged children are developed enough to understand the depths of their actions and should

receive consequences as adults; however, this argument does not consider the pressures children

endure, many of which they cannot rid themselves of due to their legal allegiance to their

parents, nor does it consider that teenage brains are in a vulnerable stage of development. Courts

should continue to recognize people as children until they turn eighteen, due to their

susceptibility to pressures they often cannot escape and their underdeveloped brains.

With a cursory understanding of teenage behaviors, one could easily make the

assumption teenagers purposefully act in a manner of destruction to gain attention from peers

and others in their lives. Perhaps in some cases this is true, though it seems superficial if one

does not take into account the teenagers motive for calling attention. In her article Juveniles

Don't Deserve Life Sentences, Gail Garinger, a formal juvenile court judge, informs readers that
Harwell 2

in 2005, the Supreme Court recognized that even in the most serious cases, 'juvenile

offenders cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders: they are less

mature, more vulnerable to peer pressure, cannot escape from dangerous environments,

and their characters are still in formation. (Garinger 93)

If teenagers commit crimes in order to gain attention, more than likely it is a cry for help. They

cannot legally escape their environments the way adults can, as they are under the control of

guardians, so they must endure the weight of pressure, and possible abuse, until they are 18-

years-old and legally permitted to live alone. It is understandable, under these circumstances, that

teenagers might feel the need to call attention towards themselves in order to receive assistance

navigating through the chaos in their lives.

It is regrettable that some teenagers believe violence is the only way to receive attention,

however, a fit of rage might provoke a spontaneous show of violence which teenagers cannot be

fully held accountable due to brain underdevelopment. Though peer pressure and an inability to

escape environments are external struggles, one must address the internal teenage struggles of

maturity and formation of character as well. According to Paul Thompson, a scientist at the

University of California, Los Angeles, internal struggles such as these are enhanced in teens due

to a massive loss of brain tissue [and brain cells] that occurs in the teenage years, (Thompson

47). Researchers believe the affected brain tissues, referred to as Gray matter, (47) [support]

all our thinking and emotions (47). They also believe the affected brain cells, located in the

frontal lobes, [control] impulses, risk-taking, and self control (47) as well as inhibit our

violent passions, rash actions, and...emotions (47). The fact these tissues and cells are vastly

immature throughout the teenage years, is not something teenagers can control, and as a result

they often react impulsively without considering or understanding the consequences of their
Harwell 3

actions (47). Adults have fully developed brains, so it is appropriate to charge them with full

accountability for their actions. This is not to say that teenagers have no accountability, or that

they should not receive any punishment, but sentencing them to life without parole as adults is

too harsh. (Deleted: and in fact, violates the eighth Constitutional Amendment on cruel and

unusual punishment.)

Teenagers should receive appropriate punishment so they understand the depths of their

crimes and so the victims of their crimes can find solace. In her article On Punishment and Teen

Killers, Jennifer Jenkins, whose pregnant sister died at the hands of a teenager, writes, There

are no words adequate to describe what this kind of traumatic loss does to a victims family

(Jenkins 49). Her statement proves why it is especially important that people of all ages receive

punishment for their actions, though, given that teenagers differ from adults biologically, the

court system should allow them alternative, lighter consequences. It is also important, when

administering punishment to children, to consider exactly how old the children are. For example,

a five year old child would not have the slightest understanding of the consequences that would

ensue if she were to pick up a gun and shoot someone to death, whereas a seventeen year old

would have a better understanding. Due to this age gap, people who advocate for courts to charge

teenagers as adults must still institute a distinct age (Deleted: line) at which courts should

begin charging them as such. No matter what the crime, the punishment must fit it appropriately,

considering the age and brain development of the accused, as well as the factors in their life.

The reason people now consider charging teenagers as adults began with a prediction

researchers made but which never came to pass, about an upcoming generation of child

criminals. Considering this fear but keeping in mind that teenagers have underdeveloped minds

and are susceptible to pressures they can't escape, Americans should have decided to invest more
Harwell 4

money into mental health services. This logic still holds true today. Rather than locking up

children in prisons after they commit crimes, Americans should focus on guiding children

through the stressful teenage years, and recognizing potential criminals to prevent them from

committing crimes in the first place. This would overall improve the wellbeing of teenagers,

reduce teenage crime, and open up cells in prisons for people who are real threats to society.

Word Count: 983

Works Cited

Garinger, Gail. Juveniles Don't Deserve Life Sentences. Juvenile Justice: n. pag. Rpt. in CSU

Expository Reading and Writing Course: Student Reader. 2nd ed. Long Beach: California

State University Press, 2013. 93-94. Print.

Jenkins, Jennifer. On Punishment and Teen Killers. Juvenile Justice: n. pag. Rpt. in CSU

Expository Reading and Writing Course: Student Reader. 2nd ed. Long Beach: California

State University Press, 2013. 91-92. Print.

Thompson, Paul. Startling Finds on Teenage Brains. Juvenile Justice: n. pag. Rpt. in CSU

Expository Reading and Writing Course: Student Reader. 2nd ed. Long Beach: California

State University Press, 2013. 89-90. Print.