To many Americans today, the country is a hostage-but not from oversea terrorism as
one might expect to think. No today, we live in fear from our own children; and these are the
same young people who we are entrusting the future of this great country with. According to
the Department of Justice report released in November, thirty-eight percent of those arrested
for weapons offenses in 1995 were under the age of eighteen (Curriden 66). In the same
report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that in 1995 3 out of every 100
eighteen-year-olds was arrested for weapons offenses. A rate three times higher than for
males twenty-five to twenty-nine and five times higher than for males thirty to thirty-four (66).
Just weeks later the FBI released a report indicating that arrests for youths under eighteen
increased by seven percent in 1996 (66). In light of these disturbing statistics, it may not be
surprising that the general public is starting to believe its children are getting meaner and
more violent. The media, politicians and the American public want something done, and they
want it done now. Right now we are beginning to relize that if the situation looks bleak now,
it could deteriorate even more in the future. The U.S. Census projects that the juvenile
population, reported to be 27.1 million in 1994, will rise to 33.8 million by the year 2004 (67).
At the heart of this controversy: the juvenile justice system. For the past several years
the system has been under attack by every one from state legislatures to parenteen groups.
Our solution to the rising juvenile crime problem- to get tougher. According to a recent USA
Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 60 percent of Americans believe that a teenager convicted of murder
should get the death penalty (ollson48). In response to this “get tough” mood, more and more
states are passing legislation to try youths as adults for more types of crime at younger ages.
Colorado for example has a brand new type of tough love for their juvenile threats to society,
this new “love’, so it is termed consists of lowering the age so that juveniles as young as
fourteen can be sentenced as adults(Hetter 38). This recently instated law, I feel should be
Federal law as opposed to state law. The kids these days have no direction, no ambition, and
no feelings. As John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police says,
“Police officers are encountering more kids with no hope, no fear, no rules, and no life
expectancy; the only solution is imprisonment or death; it’ll set an example to the
rest”(Edmonds 11). Juveniles should receive capitol punishment, they should be imprisoned
with adults so that maybe, just maybe we can get to the ones that still have a chance and make
a difference for them as well as us.
1995, in San Antonio, Texas, Victoria Dalton a thirteen girl, is convicted of
smothering two small children left in care. When interrogated and asked why and how could
she do such a thing, her reply was, “they just wouldn’t shut up!”. Apparently Victoria suffers
from migraine headaches, and the two children had pushed her pass her limit. Later during
her arrangement, Victoria stated to the judge that she was only thirteen and wondered why
she couldn’t go home yet(11).
Fifteen hundred miles away, in Portland, Oregon. Brandon Roses, ten, is found guilty
of murdering his five-year-old sister because he claimed that she was annoying him. Later
investigators found out that Brandon’s father had told him that killing his sister was “OK”,
because he was too young to be put in jail. Another investigation is currently under way(11).
In Austin, Texas, two young men Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal were both seventeen
in June of 1993. As part of Villareal’s gang initiation, the boys spent the evening in a open
field drinking and fighting among themselves. However shortly before midnight two girls
one sixteen and the other fourteen took a short cut through this same open field. The gang
members raped and killed the two girls. Perez, Villarreal, and the three nineteen-year-olds
await death by lethal injection. The sixth killer, only fifteen years old, is now serving a forty
year sentence in prison. Prosecutor Kelly Siegler said Villareal had shown no remorse: “He
does not deserve . . . to live among us”(11).
Begun in 1889; the first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Ill., some as
well as myself would claim that the juvenile justice system has become