This harshness toward children derived from traditional English common law, which convicted and punished 7- to year-old children as long as they appeared to understand the difference between right and wrong.
The pace of violence among certain children is rising
There are records of children as young as 10 put to death in eighteenth century England. In the second half of the nineteenth century, U.
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As the legal scholars David S. Tanenhaus and Steven A. By , more than 30 American jurisdictions adopted similar legislation, as did Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. As the movement toward mercy and reduced culpability for children swept the nation, in criminal law journal article , Arthur Towne, the superintendent of the Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, considered whether New York State should follow other states in increasing its age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, asking:.
Juvenile courts faced decades of backlash, as prosecutors argued for discretion over whether individual cases should be heard in juvenile or criminal court. Beginning in the s, prosecutors pushed for more power, claiming that the nation faced a dangerous new class of child murderers. In the s, U. Supreme Court decisions guaranteed due process protections in juvenile court, including the right to counsel. A year-old New Yorker named Willie Bosket was convicted of killing two men on the subway.
He was tried in juvenile court and received the maximum juvenile sentence of five years.
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Two days later, New York Governor Hugh Carey in the middle of a tight re-election battle called a special session of the legislature to produce the Juvenile Offender Act. Attacks on the power of the juvenile court intensified in the s and 90s. Between and , forty states passed laws making it easier for juveniles to be prosecuted as adults, often by transferring power from juvenile judges to prosecutors.
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The new laws kept coming, with 43 states passing similar changes between and A report found that when juveniles were transferred to adult court and convicted of murder, they received, on average, longer sentences than adults convicted of the same crime. In , close to , kids were tried as adults and 18, were housed in adult prisons. As children were increasingly tried as adults, racial minorities suffered the most. In , white children made up 57 percent of juvenile cases involving offenses against others, but just 45 percent of the cases transferred to adult court.
And while white youth constituted 59 percent of juvenile drug cases, they made up just 35 percent of the cases transferred to adult court. A U. As it turns out, there have always been murders by children.
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Using the Chicago Homicide Database, Tanenhaus and Drizin located the cases of 24 children tried for homicide by juvenile courts in the early s. In one case, a or year-old girl accounts differ was accused of beating an 8-year-old girl to death with a baseball. In the latest of a series of motions arguing whether or not the case is suitable for adult proceedings, Fairbanks contends that a new law requiring juvenile proceedings for and year-old offenders applies to his client.
It is one of many similar juvenile cases throughout the state being tangled in a web of legal arguments in a changing body of law. The U. Fairbanks said it started with a law passed in — Assembly Bill — which was the first rule in state history to try 14 and 15 year olds as adults. Youth arrest rates gradually rose from to and fell drastically for the next decade. The year low arrest rate for juveniles was achieved in , which accounted 2, youth arrests per , people, according to office data.
In California, the ability to prosecute 14 and 15 year olds was governed by a law passed by the legislature.
That law allowed prosecutors to directly file certain juvenile cases to adult criminal courts instead of having a judge make that determination. This happened before the U. The law eradicated direct-file authority of prosecutors. What that alarm meant was that a young person was being taken to the essentially solitary confinement wing Ultimately it was how good Red Wing appeared to me that helped convince me that locked facilities are never going to be the answer.
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