, Research Paper
Adult Crimes Deserve Adult Treatment
Thursday, May 21, 1998. In Springfield, Oregon, 15-year old Kip Kinkel opened fire in the cafeteria
of Thurston High School. Two were killed and 25 others were wounded. Tuesday, March 24, 1998. In
Jonesboro, Arkansas, 11-year old Andrew Golden and 13-year old Mitchell Johnson pulled the fire
alarm and shot at the students filing out of the school. Five were killed and ten were wounded.
Monday, Dec. 1, 1997. In Paducah, Kentucky, 14-year old Michael Carneal pulled out a pistol and
began firing on a student prayer group. Three were killed and five others were wounded.
These incidents are only a tiny sample of the school shootings that have been committed by juvniles
in the United States. More shootings have happenned in Onalaska, Washington; Johnston, Rhode
Island; Endinboro, Pennsylvania; St. Charles, Missouri … the list continues on and on, not to mention
Lynbrook junior Stephanie Tsai disagrees with this saying, “At the age of 18, teens are allowed to
vote because people believe that by that age they can think rationally and sensibally. Until kids are
18, they cannot be held responsible for their actions.” Let’s examine this age 18 issue more closely …
Granted, our or society does give juvniles the right to vote at age 18. However, many states give them
the right to drive at age 16 and the right to drink at age 21. The fact is that declaring an 18 year-old an
adult is an arbitrary standard to determine maturity as far as prosecuting crime goes.
The juvenile court system was orginially implemented to protect juveniles from the “harsh” adult
court, for juvenile criminals were thought to be more mentally “immature” than adults. This may very
well be if we were speaking of a 6 year-old. However, 17 year-olds classify as juveniles as well. Are
we to say that 17 year-olds are significantly more “immature” and should “not be held rsponsible for
their actions” than that of an adult 18-year old? I wonder……..
Furthermore, if our justice system uses mental incompetency as the reason juveniles have their own
separate and more lenient court, why aren’t 40 year-olds with the mind of a 10 year-old prosecuted in
the juvenile justice system? Are they not mentally “immature” as well?
An incorrect assumption about this controversial matter is if the juvenile were to be prosecuted in the
adult court, he would be condemned with an adult sentence. The same goes for juvniles. If a 15 year-
old were truly mentally immature, the adult justice system would take that fact into account of its
decision and ruling.
While others may argue that the juvenile justice system has the juvenile’s best interests in mind,
basic freedoms such as due process are denied in the juvenile courts. While those prosecuted
in adult courts are entitled to a jury, juvenile sentences usually lay in the hands of an individual judge.
The simple fact is that fully competent and mature juveniles are fully capable of committing the same
crime as a competent adult. The results of the crime are the same. In burglary, an innocent person was
robbed of his posessions. In murder, an innocent person was robbed of his life. As Katrina Ng, Santa
Clara University freshman answered, “If they commit the adult crimes, they should pay the adult
consequences. It’s not as if they don’t know the difference between right and wrong.”
And even in the extreme cases where right and wrong were indistinguishable to the immature
juvenile, the adult justice system would be better equipped to prosecute him, allowing for mitigating
circumstances and giving due process. This way, justice is best achieved–on both sides.