Juvenile Justice

Essay by chris1287High School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Juvenile Justice

Lionel Tate, the youngest person in American history to be sentenced to life in prison, was recently released on the terms of 1-year house arrest and 10 years probation. After serving 3 years in the Okeechobee Juvenile Offenders Correction Facility, Judge Joel T. Lazarus released Tate on his own recognizance. He will now plead guilty to charges of 2nd degree murder.

Tate served as an example of the direction our justice system has turned as of late. Three years after Tate was sentenced, 12 at the time, he was free walk out of jail after his defense attorney found a flaw in his trial; Tate had not been given psychological testing. Our juvenile justice system had run into a brick wall and three long years of protests and clemency request had finally paid off. But should Tate have been locked up to begin with? That question leads to my own interpretation of "the law".

You kill and no matter your age, race, or gender, you are sentenced and tried as an adult.

Specialists say children cannot tell the difference between right and wrong until the age of 10 or 11. With those facts, one can sway to agree with the jury saying that Tate, who was 12 year old, was guilty of 2nd degree murder and should have been tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. However, when a child accidentally pulls the trigger of their father's gun and kills their friend or when a child commits grand theft auto and recklessly takes a life, manslaughter seems a most barbarian punishment. How can we determine the correct age and sentencing of a child in middle school who has never drank, worked, or applied for a credit card. To charge someone as an adult should...