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Essay on Juvenile Justice

The credibility of juveniles being tried as adults in the state of new jersey has ignited a heated debate in recent years. All 50 states of the United States have unprecedented laws that allow young offenders to be tried as adults. In new jersey, minors as young as 15 years qualify to be tried as adults for serious crimes like murder. The laws around juveniles who have committed serious crimes have changed over the years. In new jersey, no law specifies the youngest age to be convicted, but an attorney can adjudicate a minor before imposing a sentence (The Guardian). The supreme court of the United States ruled that juveniles can not receive life without parole penalty. According to the Guardian newspaper, a report obtained by the WNYC reported 692 minors who were tried as adults in new jersey between 2011 and 2015. One hundred fifty-two of those tested were found guilty and served their jail terms from adult prisons.

The new jersey laws are not retroactive, and many juveniles end up at adult prisons before they are 18 years. In a study conducted by Sobie (p26), a minimum sentence to a child who has committed homicide or murder is 8 to 25 years, while in New York, it is between 1 to 5 years. New Jersey is known for its white disparity issues most minors of color suffer more than their white counterparts. The long sentences served to children in new jersey led them to end with adult records and sentences. Research conducted by – longer sentences don’t prevent juveniles from repeating the offense because they are more susceptible to peer pressure. Children between 11- 15 years suffer from impaired capabilities that render them unsuitable for a court trial. Immaturity is another factor that causes minors to be incompetent defendants in the elements of reasoning and is distinctly relevant under the law.

In the case of Dusky v United States, the ruling declared that all defendants needed to pass competence criteria. Knowledge alters competence, and most minors may be too immature to understand proceedings. Juveniles with incompetence should not stand trial or be placed into adult courts. Although severe crimes like robbery, drug trafficking, and homicides require justice, some minors might not have a fundamental understanding of these issues (Law, p 35281). Most juvenile defendants can not make rational decisions, and often the judge will determine a verdict they do not understand. Immaturity causes minors to be incapable of sufficiently consulting with an attorney. Often, they lack a factual understanding of the proceedings against them. As much as the law states that a 15-year-old is in a position to understand the consequences of their actions, without rational decision-making and the ability to be restored to competence, they fall prejudiced of insufficient defense.

A verdict of life imprisonment to minor defendants contradicts the supreme court. Although research has proven that minors are likely to be rearrested within the first four years of being out of prison, the rehabilitation schemes in the United States play a role in molding the juveniles. For instance, in new jersey, some minors end up in adult prison, and with minimal to no rehabilitation, they get out of prison worse than when they joined. Children are more likely to comply with the law compared to adults.

In conclusion, the law of trying children as adults in new jersey should be abolished. Minors need a second chance in life, and with proper rehabilitation, they can turn out to be reputable people in society. Longer sentences given by the courts do not change them but worsen them because the minors often age out and join adult prisoners who are the wrong peers to guide them.

Works Cited

Law, Idaho. “State v. Hawkins Appellant’s Reply Brief Dckt. 35281.”

Sobie, Merril. “The state of American juvenile justice.” Crim. Just. 33 (2018): 26.

The Guardian. “Nearly 90% Of New Jersey Children Tried As Adults Since 2011 Were Black Or Latino.” the Guardian. N.p., 2022. Web. 23 Mar. 2022.


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