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Juvenile Justice

November 7, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 39
Are sentencing policies too harsh?
By Peter Katel

Introduction

Andre Green (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Andre Green, now 26, was 13 when he was convicted of rape under a North Carolina law that permits children as young as 13 to be tried as adults. He is serving a minimum of 20 years in prison. North Carolina and many other states enacted tough juvenile laws in the 1980s and '90s to stem rising crime rates. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

As many as 200,000 youths charged with crimes today are tried in adult courts, where judges tend to be tougher and punishments harsher — including sentencing to adult prisons. But with juvenile crime now on the decline, youth advocates are seizing the moment to push for major changes in iron-fisted juvenile justice systems nationwide. Above all, they want to roll back harsh state punishments — triggered by the crack cocaine-fueled crime wave of the late 1980s and early '90s — that sent thousands of adolescents to adult courts and prisons. Many prosecutors say the get-tough approach offers society the best protection. But critics say young people often leave prison more bitter and dangerous than when they went in. Moreover, recent brain studies show weak impulse control in young people under age 18, prompting some states to reconsider their tough punishments. Prosecutors respond that even immature adolescents know right from wrong.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Juveniles and the Justice System
Mar. 05, 2010  Youth Violence
Nov. 07, 2008  Juvenile Justice
Apr. 27, 2001  Kids in Prison
Mar. 15, 1996  Preventing Juvenile Crime
Feb. 25, 1994  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 17, 1987  Troubled Teenagers
Nov. 28, 1986  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 27, 1979  Juvenile Justice
Feb. 11, 1970  Juvenile Offenders
Jul. 17, 1957  Reform of Delinquents
Sep. 25, 1953  Youngsters in Trouble
Sep. 08, 1950  Teen-Age Lawbreakers
Feb. 23, 1943  Juvenile Delinquency
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Juvenile Justice
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