Author: Debate_Guru

Juveniles Should be Tried as Adults

PRO (6 arguments)

Links to more PRO research:


"Punishing Teen Criminals Like Criminals"

The proposition can use this site to prepare. The NCPA uses a fact sheet format to explain the current status of the juvenile crime issue.


“Juveniles Should Be Tried as Adults”

Both sides should use this article, as it provides detailed arguments for each position.



Juveniles: Children below the age of 18

Tried: Put through the adult trial process, i.e., jury, judge, etc, for the crimes of rape and murder. I would like to clarify that an adult trial does not necessarily reflect an adult punishment, but, as the Affirmation will prove, it undeniably produces a fairer and more realistic punishment than does a quick sentencing provided by an overworked, underpaid, juvenile judge.

Adults: Citizens above the age of 18

1. Juvenile crime is a serious problem and is not being handled adequately.

"The rate of murders by kids has indeed been skyrocketing across the country. According to the National Crime Analysis Project of Northeastern University in Massachusetts, the number of 17-year-olds arrested for murder climbed 121 per cent in the latter half of the '80s; the number of 16-year-olds by 158 per cent; and the number of 15-year-olds by 217 per cent."  In addition, juvenile arrest rates for violent have, in the majority of cases, exceeded those for adults since 1980.  The number of serious crimes committed by juveniles is on track to more than double every decade.


"Jailing Juveniles", by Steve Bogira, and "Juvenile Crime", from California's Legislative Analyst's Office

2. Crime victims suffer throughout their lives because of their trauma.

Crime victims have a much higher lifetime incidence of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than people who have not been victimized (25% vs. 9,4%). Of crime victims diagnosed with PTSD, 37% also suffer from depression. (...) Crime victims suffer a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma. (...) Every victim's experience is different, and the recovery process can be extremely difficult. It can take a few months or years -- or an entire lifetime -- depending upon the variables involved."


Kilpatrick Dean G. and Ron Acierno, "Mental Health Needs of Crime Victims: Epidemiology and Outcomes", Journal of Traumatic Stress 16 (2003), in "Trauma of Victimization", National Center of Victims of Crime

3. In the cases in which juveniles were given an adult trial, it would ultimately be beneficial to society.

The adult justice system gives juveniles a jury, a proper judge, and good representation. The juvenile system however has no jury; the judge is over-worked along with the counsel provided. The adult criminal system also works better in terms of getting suspects in prison. "Juveniles tried as adults were more likely to be incarcerated, and incarcerated for longer than those who remained in the juvenile system."


An adult trial would serve towards the goal of protection of the society. Adult criminal system helps protect the society from dangerous delinquents, because it keeps them locked up in prisons for a longer period of time, thus increasing the chance of their reformation.  Even if it certain cases, it doesn't increase it, the couple of extra years of protection are worth the change of the status quo as the criminal is kept away from hurting families in the future.

4. Juvenile courts are giving far too mild sentences.

Judge, if a student were to walk in here at this moment and kill everyone in the room, do you know what would happen in California?  He would receive eight years of juvenile detention.  And afterwards, he would be let go. Just like that. That is an abuse of our legal system is clearly impermissible. 

A crime is a crime, and the punishment should prevent a future crime in a sufficient manner.  In juvenile court, this is not the case.

5. Juvenile jurisdiction is inherently flawed.

The juvenile justice system is inefficient. "The overall rate of recidivism for boys was 77% compared to 72% among girls in Washington State.  Recidivists committed 100% of murders and 50% of manslaughters. In addition to that, according to a 2008 study by Le Monde, "80% of those in juvenile facilities re-offend."

Imprisonment of juveniles in detention centers has adverse effects. "One-third of all responding institutions reported one or more incidents in which violence involving gang members resulted in serious injury. In addition to contributing to institutional violence, gangs form in these facilities and recruit members there. The formation of gangs probably is related to inmates' need for protection from other inmates." 

Judge, not only are juvenile detention centers ineffective in rehabilitating children in the majority of cases, they serve as recruiting grounds for future criminals!


"Recidivism of Juvenile Offenders," The State of Washington [December 2005], 1993 review of the Chicago juvenile detention facilities

6. The juvenile system has more faults then benefits.

Obviously, juvenile crime has neither been deterred nor hindered by more than 3 decades of failure in the juvenile courts.  Our opponents may argue that the costs of trying juveniles as adults for these crimes are too large.  We as the affirmation find two faults with that argument. First of all, less than 5% of all crimes committed by juveniles fall under the category of murder or rape.  Secondly, let us observe the costs of crime that come from an ineffective juvenile detention system. They include the operation of tax-supported justice systems, including the police, prosecution, courts, probation, incarceration, and parole fields. There are medical costs for individuals and the government that stem from the crime.  Property must be replaced. Society is harmed by a loss of a productive citizen.  Even ignoring the physical and material losses from a crime, our opponents want us to sweep the mental agony suffered by victims under the rug as well?  It is obvious that the juvenile detention system is not working, and after looking at the success rate of the criminal court system, it is obvious that it would be a worthy investment, far outweighing the simple costs that come from a changed trial.  The recidivism rate of adult offenders within 3 years of a previous crime is almost 66%. That of juveniles is bordering on 88%. Obviously, the adult criminal court system is far more effective.


Financially, it costs much more to detain a juvenile than an adult, he points out. The average cost of holding a teenager in a juvenile facility was $33,000 in 2000, the last year data was available. The average cost of holding a adult prisoner was about $23,000 in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available.


National Criminal Justice Reference Service and the University of Chicago

CON (0 arguments)

Links to more CON research:

"Youth Crime/Adult Time: Is Justice Served?"

Jolanta Juszkiewicz uses statistics and research to highlight the problems with charging juveniles as adults.


"The Wrong Answer to Littleton:  A Few Teen Criminals Belong in Prison, but Most do Not"

The Washington Monthly explores why charging juveniles as adults is not the best remedy for juvenile crime.