By Chris Barts
The average age for a person to commit his first homicide is nineteen. In many jurisdictions, the age at which one becomes an adult is twenty-one. This has prompted many prosecutors to prosecute those offenders as adults, making them subject to the substantially harsher penalties an adult court can hand down. This is an intelligent trend, and in this article I will show why it should be continued.
The fact of the matter is, offenders are being arrested and tried for violent crimes younger and younger. Not just school shootings, but crimes like rape and armed burglary are being perpetrated by youths younger and younger. People like that, who commit a violent or sexual crime at a young age, have a high rate of recidivism, a low rate of true rehabilitation, and a propensity to try even more severe crimes. For the sake of society, severe punishments are required to keep these people from harming others.
Some opponents of tough penalties for crime state that youths have no conception of the charges being brought against them, and therefore are not competent to stand trial. This is untrue. By the time a person has come to trial, they have been made aware of their rights, the charges brought against them, and possible penalties. Besides, nobody is proposing that we sentence six-year-olds, or try them in a court of law. The current system already provides for those truly incapable of understanding legal proceedings, and most violent offenders do not fit that description.
If a person is morally damaged enough to take another's life without guilt, or rape another, or violently rob another, that person is not fit to live among civilized people. Punishing those people is more about protecting society than any unproven benefits of rehabilitation. Except in the case of extremely young offenders, in which case the personality is still being formed. For those offenders, some as young as six, rehabilitation, therapy, and an evaluation of home life is called for, as people that young not only have no ability to understand their crime, they cannot understand the legal process, and can still be helped. Sadly, very few can be helped.
The ultimate solution is, of course, catching these people at an even earlier age. Parents and teachers taking a more active role in a youth's home life is called for. Diagnosing the disturbed ones is essential to preventing crime, and can be done easily and early if children and adults have a positive relationship.
In conclusion, the world is becoming more dangerous. Problems like rape, homicide, burglary, and many others are rising with the population and the attendant decrease of interpersonal relationships. People must defend themselves and their society, and our criminal justice system provides that defense at a civilian level. Part of that defense is concerted effort to prevent crime, which can be done even as early as the preschool years.
But where prevention fails, enforcement must begin.