Juvenile Justice

To many Americans today, the country is a hostage-but not from oversea
terrorism as one might expect to think. No today, we live in fear from our own
children; and these are the same young people who we are entrusting the future
of this great country with. According to the Department of Justice report
released in November, thirty-eight percent of those arrested for weapons
offenses in 1995 were under the age of eighteen (Curriden 66). In the same
report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that in 1995 3 out of every 100
eighteen-year-olds was arrested for weapons offenses. A rate three times higher
than for males twenty-five to twenty-nine and five times higher than for males
thirty to thirty-four (66). Just weeks later the FBI released a report
indicating that arrests for youths under eighteen increased by seven percent in
1996 (66). In light of these disturbing statistics, it may not be surprising
that the general public is starting to believe its children are getting meaner
and more violent. The media, politicians and the American public want something
done, and they want it done now. Right now we are beginning to relize that if
the situation looks bleak now, it could deteriorate even more in the future.
The U.S. Census projects that the juvenile population, reported to be 27.1
million in 1994, will rise to 33.8 million by the year 2004 (67).
At the heart of this controversy: the juvenile justice system. For the
past several years the system has been under attack by every one from state
legislatures to parenteen groups. Our solution to the rising juvenile crime
problem- to get tougher. According to a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 60
percent of Americans believe that a teenager convicted of murder should get the
death penalty (ollson48). In response to this ?get tough? mood, more and more
states are passing legislation to try youths as adults for more types of crime
at younger ages. Colorado for example has a brand new type of tough love for
their juvenile threats to society, this new ?love', so it is termed consists of
lowering the age so that juveniles as young as fourteen can be sentenced as
adults(Hetter 38). This recently instated law, I feel should be Federal law as
opposed to state law. The kids these days have no direction, no ambition, and
no feelings. As John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of
Police says, ?Police officers are encountering more kids with no hope, no fear,
no rules, and no life expectancy; the only solution is imprisonment or death;
it'll set an example to the rest?(Edmonds 11). Juveniles should receive capitol
punishment, they should be imprisoned with adults so that maybe, just maybe we
can get to the ones that still have a chance and make a difference for them as
well as us.
1995, in San Antonio, Texas, Victoria Dalton a thirteen girl, is
convicted of smothering two small children left in care. When interrogated and
asked why and how could she do such a thing, her reply was, ?they just wouldn't
shut up!?. Apparently Victoria suffers from migraine headaches, and the two
children had pushed her pass her limit. Later during her arrangement, Victoria
stated to the judge that she was only thirteen and wondered why she couldn't go
home yet(11).
Fifteen hundred miles away, in Portland, Oregon. Brandon Roses, ten, is
found guilty of murdering his five-year-old sister because he claimed that she
was annoying him. Later investigators found out that Brandon's father had told
him that killing his sister was ?OK?, because he was too young to be put in jail.
Another investigation is currently under way(11).
In Austin, Texas, two young men Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal were
both seventeen in June of 1993. As part of Villareal's gang initiation, the
boys spent the evening in a open field drinking and fighting among themselves.
However shortly before midnight two girls one sixteen and the other fourteen
took a short cut through this same open field. The gang members raped and killed
the two girls. Perez, Villarreal, and the three nineteen-year-olds await death
by lethal injection. The sixth killer, only fifteen years old, is now serving a
forty year sentence in prison. Prosecutor Kelly Siegler said Villareal had
shown no remorse: ?He does not deserve . . . to live among us?(11).
Begun in 1889; the first juvenile court was established in Cook County,
Ill., some as well as myself would claim that the juvenile justice system has
become weak in its old age (Hetter 39). The first known execution of a juvenile
on these shores was in 1642: Thomas Graunger, sixteen, of Plymouth Colony, Mass.,
was hanged for bestiality.