Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

New Jersey can – and will – try children as adults in certain circumstances

If you are under 18, you are considered a juvenile. Unless you are not.

In New Jersey, children 15 and older can be tried as adults in certain circumstances. Legislation passed in 2015 allows prosecutors to request minors be tried as adults in cases involving certain charges such as drug sales, robbery or murder.

Trying juveniles as adults is problematic

Longer sentences

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles can no longer receive life sentences without parole, studies show that when juveniles are tried as adults, they typically receive longer sentences.

The WNYC Data Team found that in New Jersey juveniles often receive minimum sentences of 50 and 100 years. One inmate who was 16 when he committed his crime won’t see a parole board until 2116.

Permanent criminal records

Juvenile records are sealed. Adult criminal convictions become public record. When juveniles are tried as adults they start life with a criminal record, making it hard to apply for college, obtain employment, or even get credit cards.

Punishment instead of rehabilitation

While the juvenile system is designed to rehabilitate the adult criminal justice system was designed to punish. What does this mean for minors tried as adults? There is little chance for rehabilitation and a greater chance for punishment.

As reported on PBS, two major studies recently found that juveniles who get harsher sentences in adult court tend to end up becoming repeat offenders, thus all but eliminating the likelihood of rehabilitation.

Physical, psychological and emotional dangers

In 2016, the Atlantic magazine reported that juveniles in adult facilities do not have access to the psychological and educational benefits available in juvenile detention facilities. Additionally, a Department of Justice (DOJ) survey found that juveniles imprisoned with adults were more likely to be sexually, physically and psychologically abused by inmates and staff. All these problems contribute to the further injustice of the lack of hope kids tried as adults develop regarding future prospects and quality of life.
Every parent wants the best for their kids and does what they can to keep their kids out of trouble. But it’s up to you to know or learn what you’re up against if your child gets arrested.

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