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October 15, 2010

Examining the challenges of dealing with violent juve offenders

The Orlando Sentinel has this effective new piece, headlined "Cycle of crime: Ever more young offenders sent to Florida adult courts," which examines the criminal justice challenges posed by violent juvenile offenders. Here are excerpts from the piece:

[A]n increasing number of juvenile felony offenders in Florida [have been] routed to adult court in the past five years because of the severity of their crimes.  Experts say the rising number of transfers shows a juvenile-justice system ill-equipped to handle young violent offenders.

The number of juveniles transferred to adult court has ebbed and flowed.  In the early 2000s, the numbers were high and then declined.  But by 2005, the numbers began steadily increasing, according to statistics from the Department of Juvenile Justice.... [I]n the fiscal year that ended in July 2009 — the most recent year for which data are available — more than 600 Central Florida juveniles were sent to adult court.

University of Central Florida criminal-justice professor Kenneth Adams said the increase reflects a systemwide conundrum when dealing with violent repeat young offenders: The juvenile-justice system — oriented toward rehabilitating children — offers few alternatives for punishing young offenders who pose serious threats to the community, he said....

About half of all youths who come in contact with the juvenile-justice system don't reoffend, statistics show.  But when minors engage in violent crime, Adams said, often the only choice prosecutors have is to transfer serious offenders to the adult system.

Prosecutors can choose to move teens as young as 14 to adult court for a serious violent felony.  If a youth is tried in juvenile court, the maximum sentence would keep him in prison until his 25th birthday.  In adult court, a juvenile can be sentenced to life in prison for the most serious crimes, such as murder.

"You don't get life sentences in the juvenile system," said Brad King, state attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, serving Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, Marion and Lake counties.  "If a prosecutor strongly believes the defendant will reoffend, you can't leave them in the juvenile system because they are going to get out."...

Stephen Dalsemer, director of the Orange Juvenile Assessment Center, said it's unfortunate Florida's juvenile laws are simply not strong enough, and sometimes "the best way to keep the public safe is to keep them [violent juvenile offenders] in the adult system."  Overall juvenile-crime rates are down, but Dalsemer said that "violent crime hasn't dropped off by that much."

Longtime Public Defender Bill White said Florida law is unclear about the sentencing guidelines for repeat juvenile offenders....  Most state attorneys will prosecute in adult court if the child is older than 14 with one prior felony offense because juvenile sanctions seem ineffective for protecting the public, he said.

October 15, 2010 at 06:12 AM | Permalink


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There is no maturational landmark in nature at 18. The landmark of nature is at 14. Adulthood is defined by the ability to reproduce. Puberty quickly makes people mature and appear to be adults with less experience. The idea of a juvenile court for people over 14 fails to meet Daubert standards. These do apply in criminal procedure and in the rules of evidence. By experience the 60 year old is more mature than the 40 year old.

For 10,000 years of human history, people apprenticed themselves at 12, finished and set out on their own at 14. Married and carried on their chosen trade at that age. The age was increased to keep people out of the job market for the benefit of mob bosses running unions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 15, 2010 6:50:30 AM

14 ?!?!?!


Posted by: claudio giusti, italia | Oct 16, 2010 3:57:40 AM

This is an absurd waste of police resources. It is forced by the pro-criminal lawyer who has ended painful corporal punishment in schools, and nearly in all homes. These children in the article, who are likely, foreseeably, future criminals, should be caned, as often as they act up. Police arrests require make work for pro-criminal lawyers. So, plan to see a lot more of these reports. Caning is cheap and works quickly and permanently. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 16, 2010 5:18:20 PM

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