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Should leniency on teenage criminals be abolished?


ScienceNostalgia101
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So recently I've been hearing about various teenage criminals being tried as adults because of the seriousness of their crimes.

 

But if the point of leniency for teenage criminals was to dismiss them as not knowing any better... doesn't that notion apply regardless of the seriousness of their crimes? If whether or not they know better depends on the individual... why have leniency for teenage criminals at all? Why not just draw from the same interval of sentencing options we have for adults, and if they're not wide enough for individuals of any age who didn't know better, widen the interval of sentencing options for adults too?

 

For most of history, teenagers were treated as adults, and they responded by acting like adults. Ancient Egyptians were known for getting married in their teen years. Medieval European teenagers left home to become squires in their teen years. Meanwhile, modern teenagers are prohibited from getting jobs in their early teen years, and so, they can tell their teachers "I don't need school, man, plenty of places will hire me without a diploma" and have cover for why they don't try one of those jobs then and there.

 

There can be no doubt. On a historical scale, we're the weird ones for infantilizing them.

 

So why go easy on them in criminal sentencing at all? If you want a petty teenage criminal who didn't know better to have a second change at rehabilitation, why not offer it to an adult who stole because they were desperate? Right now we create a system that breeds desperation, and if some people resort to crime instead of settling for poverty, we throw them in jail to get beaten by the guards and raped by their cellmates and let out into a world where they don't qualify for welfare and no one wants to hire them, all with the blessing of a plurality of voters. But for some reason, this plurality of voters is more okay with this potentially happening to their sons and daughters in their adults years than in their teen years, even though, to our ancestors if not subconsciously to ourselves, teenagers are adults. Why is that?

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5 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

why have leniency for teenage criminals at all?

Because floods of hormones and a still not fully developed prefrontal cortex makes us often do dumb things, and the next several decades of ones life shouldn't necessarily be ruined due to a mistake made in the first or second. 

5 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

So why go easy on them in criminal sentencing at all?

A better question is why do so many people still seem to think harsh sentencing is at all helpful to us as a culture.

5 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

people resort to crime instead of settling for poverty, we throw them in jail to get beaten by the guards and raped by their cellmates and let out into a world where they don't qualify for welfare and no one wants to hire them, all with the blessing of a plurality of voters

Citation on said blessing needed.

5 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

to our ancestors if not subconsciously to ourselves, teenagers are adults. Why is that?

Ability to reproduce and bear offspring comes before ability to think like an adult.

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1 hour ago, iNow said:

Ability to reproduce and bear offspring comes before ability to think like an adult.

I would argue that for some criminals ( or adults ), the ability to think as an adult doesn't ever come.
Should we absolve them of responsibility for their criminal behaviour also ?

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1 hour ago, MigL said:

I would argue that for some criminals ( or adults ), the ability to think as an adult doesn't ever come.

You wouldn't have to argue hard as I tend to agree. 

1 hour ago, MigL said:

Should we absolve them of responsibility for their criminal behaviour also ?

I feel a focus on rehabilitation is better for all involved instead of a focus on punishment, whether adult, teenager, or otherwise. I find this framing of absolution and responsibility a bit unhelpful, but have covered my thoughts on this pretty extensively years ago in other threads. 

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I'm just wondering why you have one standard for teens, and a different one for adults, when your premise that adult thinking can be lacking in both.
In Canada we have the Young Offenders Act, where those under 18 are given a 'just-for-show' sentence, which is hardly ever served fully, and their records are sealed, never to be brought up again.
Even for things like murder.

How does one learn that actions have consequences ?

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9 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

For most of history, teenagers were treated as adults, and they responded by acting like adults.

History is a poor standard when considering legality or ethics in today's society. 30yr old men marrying 12yr girls is a historical norm for example. My understanding is that teenagers not yet having fully form brains is a consideration in the leniency. That teenagers do not have does yet poses the mental ability, even relative to their adult selves, to understand their actions thoroughly. In my opinion finding reason to rehabilitate people is more useful than find reasons to lock people in prison for longer periods of time. Rehabilitating child is simple easier politically.

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24 minutes ago, MigL said:

I'm just wondering why you have one standard for teens, and a different one for adults, when your premise that adult thinking can be lacking in both.

I'm not in a position to write and pass legislation. I don't have different standards for both. My country does, and to that end I think (as Ten Oz suggests) it's been more politically palatable to be softer on teens... we tend to still see the childlike innocence in them... unless, of course, they're black or brown. 

Black Children Five Times More Likely Than White Youth to Be Incarcerated

Quote

African American youth were five times as likely as white youth to be detained or committed to youth facilities. <...> Black youth were four times as likely as whites to be incarcerated. <...> in six states, African American youth are at least 10 times as likely to be held in placement as are white youth <...> Black children are more than twice as likely as white kids to be arrested, but the data shows this disparity is not because Black kids are committing more crimes

 

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14 hours ago, Ten oz said:

History is a poor standard when considering legality or ethics in today's society. 30yr old men marrying 12yr girls is a historical norm for example.

Is that as widespread, historically, as 12 yr old girls marrying 12 yr old boys, though? I usually hear mostly about the latter.

 

14 hours ago, Ten oz said:

 My understanding is that teenagers not yet having fully form brains is a consideration in the leniency.

According to the same social sciences that gave us "surveys" to which respondents could lie. How did that work out for us in 2016?

14 hours ago, Ten oz said:

In my opinion finding reason to rehabilitate people is more useful than find reasons to lock people in prison for longer periods of time. Rehabilitating child is simple easier politically.

It's too late. The critics of "deterrence-centric" reasoning pointed out that the deterrence value of harsh sentencing was unfalsifiable, but then ruined it all by making themselves look like the biggest hypocrites in the world when they jumped to unfalsifiable conclusions about the motives of those pushing it. And then for some of those people those conclusions turned out to be wrong anyway.

 

By rights, the prison industry owes them a lot of money. Without their help, their critics wouldn't look like such hypocrites, and the voters wouldn't hand so many prisoners over to them.

 

But hey, it's possible either the "tough on teenage criminals" OR "lenient on adult criminals" approach will fail. So why not try both? Why not try to smooth out the gap on both ends, by being tougher on teenage criminals and more lenient on adult criminals? Hell, maybe some parents might start to give a damn about the root causes of crime if their adorable teenage daughter is looking at jail time.

 

Either way, one thing's for sure; we have to stop letting whether to try them as adults or as kids be up to the judge. That's how you get racial disparities like the ones iNow points out. (Which are, of course, par for the course given every other aspect of sentencing.)

  • Max total size: 3.91 MB
  • Max total size: 3.91 MB

Okay, I do not know what exactly is wrong with the above post and why it is superimposing the "drag files here to attach" thing over it. Any mods have any input on that?

EDIT: Oh, I missed the earlier part. Regardless of attempts to blame solely the "prison-industrial complex" fall flat, because they wouldn't be able to do what they do if not for judges, city councilors, state representatives, federal representatives, etc... alike getting elected on promises to be "tough on crime."

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