Featured Media Resource: [VIDEO] Stickup Kid (Frontline)
What happens when we lock up juvenile offenders in adult prisons? “Stickup Kid,” a FRONTLINE digital exclusive, tells the story of Alonza Thomas — sent to adult prison in California at age 16 — and how spending over a decade behind bars impacted him.


Do Now

Should teens under 18 be tried and sentenced as children or adults? #DoNowJuvies 

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Learn More About Juveniles and the Justice System

The United States locks up more kids than any other industrialized nation in the world.

Juvie Justice infographicAnnie E. Casey Foundation

But although the youth incarceration rate in the U.S. continues to outpace all other wealthy nations (much like our overall incarceration rate), it’s dropped significantly in the last decade. A series of Supreme Court decisions, state policy changes and plummeting crime rates since the late 1990s have resulted in major reductions in the youth prison population.

America’s youth and adult prison population peaked in the late 1990, following a spiking crime rate and harsher sentencing laws. Youth incarceration, in particular, exploded: by 1997, more than 107,000 kids were behind bars, only about a quarter for violent offenses. Amid high crime rates and ultimately unfounded fears of a new generation of young “super predators,” states rushed to lower the age at which youth could be tried and sentenced as adults, a move that lead to longer prison terms and an increased number of teenagers in adult prisons. California, followed suite, passing Proposition 21 in 2000, which required adult trials for juveniles 14 or older charged with murder or specified sex offenses.

By 2013, though, that number had dropped by roughly half, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Today there are about 54,000 incarcerated youth.

What happened?

By the early 2000s, the youth and adult crime rate started dropping sharply, and more states simply started to realize this strategy of harsh youth sentencing simply didn’t make much sense. Not only were a growing number of kids leaving prison with psychological issues and a greater risk of committing more serious crimes, but the system was also extremely expensive. One recent study by the Justice Policy Institute found that for most states, it costs roughly $100,000 a year to incarcerate one kid, as opposed to $10,000 to pay for a year of public school education.

A trio of Supreme Court decisions also made it harder for states to slap youth with severe sentences. A 2004 decision abolished capital punishment for crimes committed by juveniles. And as a result of decisions in 2010 and 2012, states are now prohibited from imposing life sentences on juveniles. The court determined that such harsh sentencing of kids constituted cruel and unusual punishment, a decision that overturned mandatory sentencing policies in 28 states.

Although today’s juvenile justice system has undergone significant reforms, there are still stark disparities. Nearly 70 percent of incarcerated youth are minorities. And black youth are nearly five times as likely to be incarcerated than their white peers. Additionally, a sizable number of youth are still entering the system because of very minor offenses, including petty theft and school discipline issues, a factor that’s now referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”


More Resources

INFOGRAPHIC: The Number of Juveniles in Residential Placement Continued to Decline in 2013 (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)
This graphic  illustrates the challenges that remain to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and confinement of youth who commit less serious offenses.

INFOGRAPHIC: Youth Incarceration in the United States (Annie E. Casey Foundation)
Although the United States still leads the industrialized world in its incarceration rate of young people, the lock-up rate is rapidly declining. This two-page infographic presents a wealth of statistics underscoring the sea change in youth confinement that is underway.

ARTICLE: Why States Are Changing Course on Juvenile Crime (Frontline)
In the last six or seven years, states have begun to consider new approaches to juvenile offenders, backed by research showing that incarceration actually increases the chances a young person will commit another crime.

ARTICLE: Juvenile Justice: Too Young for Life in Prison? (ABC News)
This article spells out some of the main arguments in favor of and against trying and sentencing minors as adults.


Do Next

Do Next takes the online conversation to the next level: these are suggestions for ways to go out into your community and investigate how the topic featured in this Do Now impacts people’s lives. Use digital storytelling tools and social media to share your story and take action. Make sure to tag your creations with #DoNowJuvies.

  • Host Your Own Vote: Have have your class vote on the best approach to sentencing juveniles and tweet your responses to @KQEDEdspace with #DoNowJuvies. Make sure to cite sources for evidence.
  • Create a Survey: Poll students in your school about what they think about this issue. Use Youth Radio’s How to Make an Infographic toolkit to prepare them to visualize the survey results in clear and engaging ways. Reflect on what’s most surprising about the findings, and send your results to @KQEDEdspace.
Should Teens Who Commit Serious Crimes Be Sentenced as Adults? 1 September,2017Matthew Green

  • Cal Moore

    We live in a state of mind that if you
    commit a crime, you go to jail. But what jail specifically you might ask? Well
    should teens who commit a serious crime be charged as adults? I think not.
    Teens can’t handle the environment of an adult prison; adult prisons are much
    more intense than juvenile prisons. “There are approximately 6,000 juveniles in
    adult jails and prisons in the United States. (Frontline)” Teens should not be
    charg4ed as adults, it doesn’t matter what crime they commit. People don’t know
    the reason these kids do what they do. This one sixteen year old boy named
    Alonza Thomas ran away from home one day because he got in an argument with his
    mom. After Alonza ran away he met this man that said he can stay with him for a
    couple days. When it was time for Alonza to go home the man wouldn’t let him
    leave, the man said “you think you can stay at my home for free? There is
    always a price, nothing is ever free.” The man asked Alonza to rob a Fastrip
    convenient store, and if he did well he could get some of the money. Alonza
    didn’t know what to do, so he went to go rob the convenient store. When Alonza
    got caught, he was charged up to thirteen years in an adult prison. Alonza was
    only fifteen at the time so you would think he would go to a juvenile prison,
    but that was surely not the case. “On March 7, 2000, California had passed a
    law making it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults.” So Alonza had no choice
    but to go to an adult prison.

    Teens are just too young for a life in
    prison. “In May, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that will soften
    sentences against some juveniles. The nation’s highest court ruled that
    juvenile offenders who haven’t been convicted of murder cannot be sentenced to
    life in prison without any chance of parole. The United States was the only
    country, prior to the ruling that did not have such a law. (ABC News)” So it does
    not matter what crime a teen commits, except murder, they cannot be charged for
    life in prison.

    Young adults cannot handle an adult
    prison. It doesn’t matter what crime they commit, teens should be held in a
    juvenile prison, not an adult one. Some teens have changed since they have gone
    to an adult prison; their lives have changed because of it. People in adult
    prisons are crazy and have committed serious crimes. That is no place for a kid;
    they could be put into serious harm. Teens who commit a serious crime should
    not be sentenced to an adult prison, they should be sentenced to a juvenile
    prison for however long there sentence is. Juvenile prisons are a lot less hard
    on kids than adult prisons. Teens who commit serious crimes deserve better than
    that.

  • Reed Moore

    Yes, I do believe that teens should be charged like adults if they commit a serious crime. In the video “Stickup Kid” by the Front Line, they interviewed a kid who tried to rob a gas station. Alonza Thomas was a freshman in high school at the time. He ran away from home and stayed at some guy’s house for a couple of days. When he tried to leave the man put a gun to his head and said you have to rob this gas station for me. So when Alonza tried he got caught and arrested. The video says, “Alonza was the first minor to be charged as an adult under their new prompt 21”. This means that Alonza is charged to the full offence of his crime. He was charged with, “armed robbery and attempting to flee from police”. This is an offence that sentenced Alonza to 16 years in an adult prison. He is sad and scared, he is missing his whole high school education and is a child in a prison with a bunch of adults, but I don’t feel bad. Yes he was put and gun point and was forced to rob the store, but he could’ve went into the store and just told the store clerk his predicament and been fine. Now he has to face the consequences of his actions.

    The article “Youth Incarceration in the United States” they took studies to see if the incarceration rate in the United States was increasing or decreasing for teens. In the studies it shows, “the incarceration rate for teens in the U.S is decreasing at a steady rate”. The article says that black children are incarcerated five times more than their white peers. It also says that over 40% of the teens that are in prison at the moment are for non-violent cases. This means that are government needs to change their views on what is considered a serious crime and what isn’t.

    Also in the article “Why States Are Changing Course on Juvenile Crime” they describe the story of Alonza Thomas again and say how if he was tried todays court systems, he would be doing community service. They say, “The juvenile justice landscape has been reshaped in part by a trio of Supreme Court decisions, starting in 2004”. It all started when these three men did this. “That year, in Roper v. Simmons, the court abolished capital punishment for crimes committed by juveniles. In 2010, the court decided in Graham v. Florida that states cannot impose mandatory life sentences on juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide. Two years later, in Miller v. Alabama, it expanded on that ruling, declaring mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of any crime to be unconstitutional”.

    So yes, they are still minors and have years to grow as people, but if they are going to commit crimes that in danger themselves and others they should be locked up. They are smart enough to think of a crime to commit, so they are smart enough to know of the consequences they will face if they get caught.

  • Emily Matz

    I believe teens who have committed serious crimes like murder or something along those lines should be sentenced as adults. Though if kids are tried as adults, there should be an in between, like a jail not quite as harsh as the adult prisons, but more sever then the juvenile jail for kids their age. According to Kqed.org, more kids were coming out of prison with psychological issues that increased the risk of the kids committing more serious crimes once they’re out. I think that when you’re young and you commit crimes, you don’t really realize the full consequences of what you have done until you’ve actually done the crime. Perhaps some of them realize that and do it anyway, but I bet some of them don’t. Though despite this, they shouldn’t be able to get away with a light sentence just because they are a teen or a kid. I wouldn’t want to know that a teen who murdered someone would only be in jail for so many years and then released into the world again. According to abcnews.go.com, many juveniles are tried in an adult court if they have had a past criminal record and then committed a violent crime like rape or murder. The juveniles have to learn their lesson and understand that you can’t just go around committing crimes and think nothing will happen or that they’ll get away with it because they’re under 18 and young. “Just last week, a 12-year-old boy in Missouri was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for killing his mother and stepfather. In Pennsylvania, another 12-year-old boy is charged with murdering his father’s pregnant fiancé,” according to abcnews.go.com. I’m not going to lie; I am honestly surprised to see how young kids are when they commit crimes, rather if they grew up in a bad environment or around street gangs, etc. That doesn’t give a reason to sympathize with them about what they did, you can’t murder someone and not realized what you’re doing is going to end their life. They chose the path of crime. So they have to understand that this isn’t a world where crime is tolerated or allowed. I know what I’m saying probably sounds cruel and mean, but I believe that if you let someone off the hook for something they have done wrong and they don’t get punished, they will assume that it wasn’t a big deal because they got out of the situation unscathed and will most likely do it again because nothing happened the first time. There isn’t an easy way to go about judging crimes. But thankfully, according to aecf.com, the lock up rate for kids has dropped by 41% from 1995. Which sounds very promising and hopeful that even though some kids still commit crimes, the rate of how many kids are committing them is dropping. I believe that everyone should be given a second chance, but if they haven’t learned that what they have done is wrong, then I’m sure it’ll happen again.

  • Buddy Gray

    In today’s society, we live in a world where everyone is a
    winner. From the rec league tee-ball games we played in as little kids, to the
    free food stamps for people who are too lazy to get a job at the simplest
    places like McDonalds or Taco Bell, everyone gets a trophy. The problem is what
    people have to learn is that they get out of life what they put into it. You
    work for what you have and you will be rewarded. That’s the only way a society
    can work, the people who work hard for what they have or want are going to be
    punished sitting next to the kid in the college classroom who has done nothing
    his whole life and is free-loading off of mommy and daddy’s money. Now there
    are, and will always be fine lines where people say and think should be earned
    and what should be equally given. Now in
    Alonza Thomas’ case, you need to think, what your actions do, you are
    responsible for, good or bad. There will also be a fine line when and where teenagers
    should be tried in a court of law as an adult or juvenile. The problem is that
    we are looking at the wrong side of this. It’s not whether they should be tried
    as an adult or juvenile, but it what the charge should be. If you take for example
    the man who has worked his life to get this, let’s just say, convenience store,
    and now some punk kid tries to hold him at gun point and take that away from
    him, is just wrong. As Ed Jagels from the video said “We either treat people
    who commit that kind of crime very seriously in order to protect people like
    his victims, or we don’t. There’s no middle ground” (Frontline kqed video). I find this true to the most extent with
    support from my previous statement. Some may argue that they are influenced by their
    elders, and not necessarily brought up the right way knowing right from wrong,
    but any person over the age of 12-13, able to; in this case, handle a gun is
    for sure able to know how to comprehend the difference between right and wrong.
    According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, youth incarceration has declined
    41% since 1995, not only in Caucasian cases, but in all races as well. “Anybody
    who pulls a gun and aims it at a police officer is a very serious threat and I
    would consider him a very dangerous individual,” state Deputy Brenda Beadle tells
    ABC News. Brenda is right; anyone who can make these decisions is considered
    dangerous and has to be considered liable to their own decisions. When it comes
    down to it, people need to know the difference between wrong and right, and
    every action you take has a consequence. Take the right action, receive the
    right consequence. I can guarantee you that after seeing what life was like in
    prison for Alonza that he sure won’t be doing these types or any crimes at all anymore,
    and that is exactly what society needs implement in the brain of young
    children.

  • Taylor Bentley

    Should teens who commit serious crimes be sentenced as adults?I believe yes, but it always should depend on the crime. If they committed murder or rape, then yes. That teen, students, whatever you want to call them, should be sentenced to an adult. The young man in this article, Alonza Thomas, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for armed robbery. He ran away and stayed at this strangers home. The stranger fed him and kept him in his house. When Thomas went to try and go back home, the stranger pulled the gun and told him that he has to pay for what he had. So Thomas had to rob the gas station or the little store. Alonza was not thinking and he went in and had a gun. He was attacked and held at gunpoint until the cops got there. Thomas was only 16 years old and they understood how young he was. I feel he does deserve to be tried as an adult. (http://ww2.kqed.org/education/2016/03/25/should-teens-who-commit-serious-crimes-be-tried-and-sentenced-as-adults/)

    Also, Alonza had a potential thought of shooting because the gun was loaded. A part of me feels like he should not have gotten 13 years because he was a first time offender, but they the logical and real part, thinks he should because it was a serious crime he committed and could have furthered that if he would have shot. In the last six or seven years, states have begun to consider new approaches to juvenile offenders. States recently have been spurred to act in large part by budget shortfalls amid the recession, and a string of state and federal court decisions objecting to harsh sentencing for young people. Between 1997 and 2011, 46 states reduced their rate of commitments for juveniles because they are changing the way they are sentencing these young criminals. Some states have also been forced into changing they way they deal with juveniles by state or federal court rulings. Violent or abusive conditions in juvenile justice systems have been documented in 22 states and Washington D.C. since 2000. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/why-states-are-changing-course-on-juvenile-crime/)

    At the age of 16, Cameron Williams lives a life far removed from the world of other teenagers. He, who celebrated his sixteenth birthday in jail, faces up to 110 years behind bars for second-degree attempted murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. He shot a police officer after being pulled over in a car with two other men. He was charged with robbery and assault in another county. Williams was also charged in an adult court because it was a “serious nature of the crime.” Shooting an officer is a very serious crime, and therefore, this male also deserves to be charged in adult court. They know what they are doing when they do it. Adrenaline or not, it really should not matter. They had that thought in their mind before they even started planning on how to successfully achieve this crime. (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/life-prison-juvenile-offenders-adult-courts/story?id=11129594

  • Josue Gonzalez

    So, I suppose this comment represents that I have read this article. So………………………………………. I could use some coffee. But, I don’t believe this to be a sign of apathy. Incarceration is not necessarily healthy for someone’s cognitive development during their adolescence.

  • Luz Maria Barrientos

    Should teens who commit serious crimes be sentenced as adults? I believe that teens who truly do commit a serious crimes then yes they should be incarcerated for their crime, however you have to measure the seriousness of the crime they have done, we aren’t going to place someone in an adult prison if they have drugs on them and they aren’t selling them.

  • C.chang

    What I believe should happen here is that despite the fact that their under aged juveniles they should still do time. I do have a second notion to this topic though, as a wager since they are underaged we should cut their time in half so they can see this as a learning experience but yet not socially damage their life. Yet for those who commit great crimes should be tried to a maximum of 25-30 years. As time passes by they would mature and come to an understanding. The only problem left is social life, depression, and schooling since they will fall behind. Education should be an option and it helps kill two bird with one stone. Schooling helps them out and can distract the inmates so they won’t fall in depression and can help them develop social skills among others. Even though this is just an idea at the moment we should find some middle ground for these young adults.

  • Julia Pinasco

    I believe that a child should be tried as an adult because a crime is a crime no matter who commits it. Some sources say that the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 so they shouldn’t be imprisoned. Yet they will arrest an 18-24 year old without second guessing it. Therefore, they are putting out information that they don’t even agree with because even the opposing side can’t disagree with the fact that these children know what’s right and wrong. The crime that the child commits is completely up to them, their future is in their own hands. However, children in prison should be allowed certain things that the older and mature inmates don’t normally receive. Such as education, socializing, healthy foods that ensures growth mentally and physically plus other things that can help an imprisoned child have the same mental ability as children who are not in prison.

  • Jim Moua

    Teens that commit serious crimes should be punished like adults because at that point of age they know right and wrong. Everyone has a choice and these teens chose to commit a crime and throw away any sense of moral they had. Teens should be punished like adults.

  • Jim Moua

    Teens that commit serious crimes should be punished like adults because at that point of age they know right and wrong. Everyone has a choice and these teens chose to commit a crime and throw away any sense of moral they had. Growing up we should already know the right and wrong at that age. If you choose to commit a crime then you should be punished like an adult. Also punishing teens will reduce crime rates in the future because these teens will potentially commit more crimes as an adult. Teens should be punished like adults.

  • Jesse Ramos

    I think that teens that have committed serious crimes should be punished has an adult. They know what they are doing and they know there consequences for their actions . I think if you want to commit adult crimes you should do the adult time. In this case its difference maybe he should have been this punished so harshly but in the end he commited a cry it was a bad situation he was in but there were so mant different ways he could have handled it. In the end i belive at any age a seriuse crime you should be punished accoring ly

  • Ana Gomez

    Teens that commit a serious crime needs to be punished, but in this case I believe he shouldn’t have been treated the way he did. THey were to harsh on him and I think they shouldn’t have. He didn’t need to spend 13 years in jail.

  • Justin Xiong

    I believe that teens who commit crimes like Alonza shouldn’t be committed as a serious crime, but should be sent to jail instead of a super-max prison. The only reason they should be sent to a super-max prison is if they murdered someone with intent. Sending them to prison would leave them out on many activities like not going to prom, not knowing how to drive, not having a job. I don’t think they should be punished as adults unless they actually murder a person.

  • Caitlin Sulak

    Yes, I think that teen that commit
    serious crimes should be sentenced as an adult. In my opinion if they do
    something serious, they’re bound to do it again. But some people think that
    they won’t do it again and that they only did it because of stress or that
    they’re getting bullied. Well, so what
    you could of gotten help or something. Committing a crime is never the right
    answer. If the teen doesn’t get trialed and sentenced as an adult then that
    will make them and other kids think its okay. I mean, age is just a number…Right?

    What happens when we lock up
    juvenile offenders in adult prisons? “Stickup Kid,” a FRONTLINE video, tells
    the story of Alonza Thomas, sent to adult prison in California at age 16 and
    how spending over a decade behind bars impacted him. (Reporter, Frontline
    video) I was thinking about this, and what if they opened a teen prison? I’m
    sure there are enough teens in the United States to have a few teen prisons.
    Sentenced as an adult but, they are around people that are their age. I think
    it is the best idea. Plus, it would save the prisons a few law suits. If you
    think about it teens/ young adults are 5x more likely to get raped in prison
    over a 30 year old man. So, I say let’s do it! Let’s open a teen prison and in
    that prison they will have to meet with a regular counselor so they stay
    “stable”.

    In 2004 in Roper v. Simmons, the
    court abolished capital punishment for crimes committed by juveniles. In 2010,
    the court decided in Graham v. Florida that states cannot impose mandatory life
    sentences on juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide. Two years
    later, in Miller v. Alabama, it expanded on that ruling, declaring mandatory
    life sentences for juveniles convicted of any crime to be unconstitutional.
    “What Roper and Graham and Miller said explicitly was that kids are not adults.
    Children are different” (Barry Feld, a juvenile law professor at the University
    of Minnesota and a leading expert on juvenile justice.)

    So, in the end a crime is a crime
    no matter age or seriousness of the crime. If the ten was stupid enough to do
    the crime they can do the time. If I am correct, in a rape case 14 and up get
    sentenced as adults and can be sent to the state penitentiary well at least in
    New York. So why not have the same punishment if you do an armed robbery,
    attempt murder or even in extreme cases murder. Teens are not any different
    than an adult, if they want to do something an adult does then they can get
    punished the way and adults would. Using my earlier idea of a teen prison of
    course! I think this is the best way to stop teens from making many more bad
    decisions. It might actually make them think twice before they commit the
    crime.

  • hannah jorgensen

    Should teens under 18 be tried and sentenced as children or adults? Yes, I do believe that teens should be charged like adults if they commit a serious crime. We live in a state of mind that if you commit a crime, you go to jail. In the video “stickup Kid” a high school freshman, Alonza Thomas tried to rob a gas station. He ran away from and stayed at a friend’s house for a couple of days. When he tried to leave the man put a gun to his head and instructed him to rob the gas station for him. The video says, “Alonza was the first minor to be charged as an adult under their new prompt 21”. Meaning that Alonza was tried to the full charge of his crime. “Armed robbery and attempting to flee from police”. This resulted in Alonza facing 16 years of adult prison for his crime.

    In the article “Why States Are Changing Course on Juvenile Crime” states that “Violent or abusive conditions in juvenile justice systems have been documented in 22 states and Washington D.C. since 2000, according to an analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which helps states reform their juvenile justice programs. In each case, the lawsuits demonstrated “systemic or recurring failure to protect youth from serious psychical or psychological harm,” such as physical and sexual abuse by staff and other inmates, and the overuse of solitary confinement and restraints.” This is saying that in other offences when juveniles have been tried as adults they have suffered serious psychical or psychological harm in the past years without any action being taken.” Since 2005, 23 states have taken steps to keep juveniles out of adult prisons, such as raising the age of criminal responsibility and coming up with alternatives to large detention facilities, according to research by the Campaign for Youth Justice.” I don’t really agree with this statement because I think that a crime should be equal for anyone you should be sentenced the same as an adult. If a teen kills a person they should be tried the same as if and adult killed a person, there should be no adjustments for if your younger than 18.

    In the end a crime is a crime, no matter age or seriousness of the crime. If the teen was stupid enough to do the crime they can do the time. Teens that commit serious crimes should be punished like adults because at that point of age they know right and wrong. Everyone has a choice and these teens chose to commit a crime and throw away any sense of moral they had. Growing up we should already know the right and wrong at that age. If you choose to commit a crime then you should be punished like an adult. There should be no age restrictions to the degree of punishment. Also punishing teens will reduce crime rates in the future because these teens will potentially commit more crimes as an adult. Teens should be punished like adults.

  • Taylor west

    Should teens who commit serious crimes be sentenced as adults? In my opinion I believe they should, if
    someone going to commit a serious crime then they shouldn’t get off as easy as
    if an adult had committed that crime. Eighteen is when you’re trialed as an adult;
    any age below is considered a minor. Not to mention, when you turn seventeen
    adults themselves basically refer to you as a “young adult”. Teens are old
    enough to know between right and wrong as an adult does, and if they’re going to
    do wrong and commit a crime they should be trialed and sentences as an adult.

    “The
    United States locks up more kids than any other industrialized nation in the
    world” (stuckup kid), If teens get trialed as an adult maybe they won’t commit
    such serious crimes if they know their consequences. “The court determined that such harsh
    sentencing of kids constituted cruel and unusual punishment, a decision that
    overturned mandatory sentencing policies in 28 states “(stuckup kid). Why
    should young teens be treated better than the adults? When you’re eighteen you’re
    trialed as an adult and that not much older than seventeen or sixteen, if teens
    were actually educated in what happens if you’re sentences as an adult crime
    rates may be reduced, they need to educate and inform. They should raise the sentencing
    as an adult to a higher age, such as 20 instead of 18, regardless if that’s when
    you’re considered a “legal adult”, since you can run away from home and or
    leave at 17, and there is nothing your parents and or anyone can do about it
    rather than if you were under the age 17.

    “Crime
    overall has gone down. After peaking in 1997, the juvenile arrest rate had
    dropped 48 percent by 2011, the most recent year for which data is available,
    according to the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and
    Delinquency Prevention. That’s made reform easier to sell politically, making
    the issue a win on both sides of the political spectrum.” (frontline) some are
    also worried about the disciplinary on being treated more harsh in an adult prison
    based on your race, especially being African American or Latino. “African-American
    children were treated more harshly in the juvenile justice system. The deal
    requires the county to submit to widespread reforms, including revising its
    policies on how it treats kids in the system and consider more often
    alternatives to detention.” (frontline) They worry if they are treated harsher
    in a juvenile what happens if they’re in an adult prison. My opinion to this is
    to put in higher security and check the security regularly and make sure
    everyone is being treated equally as a convict.

    “It’s equal to sentencing someone to
    die in prison,” she said. “It’s making these irrevocable decisions
    about kids under circumstances where the research doesn’t support making those
    kinds of decisions.”(ABC news). In my opinion they shouldn’t have committed
    that crime if you didn’t want to risk spending life, everyone thinks about the
    consequences before you make a choice, you don’t commit a crime without knowing
    there are risks and consequences if caught.

  • Griselda Zaragoza

    Should teens who commit serious crimes be sentenced as adults? In my opinion if the teen doesn’t commit a serious crime like Alonza then they should not be sentenced as adults. If the crime was serious enough to the point where someone killed or even worse then yeah they should be sent to prison. I understand that at the age of 18 if they commit a crime most believe that they should be sentenced as an adult, but it only depends on the type of crime committed.

  • Angelina Felix

    Should teens who commit serious crimes be sentenced as adults? In my opinion I feel like it all just depends on the crime, and kind of their age. I feel like in a way it can be better for teens to be with adult, because they can learn something out of it. But then teens need to be punished for what they did wrong, and learn their lesson.

  • Faith Graham

    I believe that teens should be charged like adults if
    they commit a serious crime. Murder is murder no matter how old you are. It’s
    never okay to commit a serious crime just because of your age. Just because I
    am 17, doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to kill someone. Commit a crime takes just
    as much effort for a minor as it does for an adult. We live in a state of mind
    that if you commit a crime, you go to jail. In the video “stickup Kid” a high school
    freshman, Alonza Thomas tried to rob a gas station. He ran away from home and
    stayed at a friend’s house for a couple of days. When he tried to leave the man
    put a gun to his head and instructed him to rob the gas station for him. The
    video says, “Alonza was the first minor to be charged as an adult under their
    new prompt 21”. Meaning that Alonza was tried to the full charge of his crime.
    He was charged with “Armed robbery and attempting to flee from police”. This
    resulted in Alonza facing 16 years of adult prison for his crime.

    “Since 2005, 23
    states have taken steps to keep juveniles out of adult prisons, such as raising
    the age of criminal responsibility and coming up with alternatives to large
    detention facilities, according to research by the Campaign for Youth Justice.”
    I don’t really agree with this statement because I think that a crime should be
    equal for anyone you should be sentenced the same as an adult. If a teen kills
    a person they should be tried the same as if and adult killed a person, there
    should be no adjustments for if your younger than 18. In the article “Why
    States Are Changing Course on Juvenile Crime” states that “Violent or abusive
    conditions in juvenile justice systems have been documented in 22 states and
    Washington D.C. since 2000, according to an analysis by the Annie E. Casey
    Foundation, which helps states reform their juvenile justice programs. In each
    case, the lawsuits demonstrated “systemic or recurring failure to protect youth
    from serious psychical or psychological harm,” such as physical and sexual
    abuse by staff and other inmates, and the overuse of solitary confinement and
    restraints.” This is saying that in other offences when minors have been tried
    as adults they have suffered serious psychical or psychological harm in the
    past years without any action being taken.

    In the end a crime is a crime, no matter how old you are
    or how serious the crime is. If the teen was stupid enough to do the crime they
    can do the time. Teens that commit serious crimes should be punished like
    adults because at that point of age they know right and wrong. Everyone has a
    choice and these teens chose to commit a crime and throw away any sense of
    moral they had. Growing up we should already know right and wrong at that age.
    If you choose to commit a crime then you should be punished like an adult.
    There should be no age restrictions to the degree of punishment. Also punishing
    teens will reduce crime rates in the future because these teens will
    potentially commit more crimes as an adult. Teens should be punished like
    adults.

  • Christina Torres

    I think teens who commit serious crimes should be sentenced as adults. If an adult and teen commit the same crime, they should be trialed the same. If a teen commits a serious crime and let off with an easy sentence, they are more likely to commit the crime again. Sentencing teens as adults for not so serious crimes, such as robbery, is when issues are brought up. This crime compared to murder is harmless. By sending teens to adult prisons for crimes that are not so serious could cause trauma or other mental disorders.

Author

Matthew Green

Matthew Green is a digital media producer for KQED News. He previously produced The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog. Matthew's written for numerous Bay Area publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. He also taught journalism classes at Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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