Monday, January 6, 2014

Kids are Not Little Adults

We live in a society that increasingly expects less and less of children, and in many ways that is bad thing. However, there is one area where the bar has not been lowered, and that is how we treat our children in the criminal justice system. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of children in the world, and unfortunately many of the crimes that these children were prosecuted for are simple lapses in judgment that just happened to lead to tragic results. 

I would encourage you to watch the short lecture below by a renowned prosecutor by the name of Hank Coxe:

After watching this lecture I couldn't help but ask myself: 

If it is true that scientifically children do not have the same capacity for proper decision making as adults, is it fair to treat them as adults when we prosecute them? 

Also, is it fair to submit a child to traditional interrogation techniques, and Miranda procedure, when law enforcement knows very well that most likely the child will either not understand what they are saying, or be so intimidated that the child will say anything to make the questioning stop? 

I have come across some amazing children, that are oftentimes more mature that most adults that I know, but in almost all cases the reason for their maturity is great parents. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, the kids in our criminal justice system aren't blessed with great parents, or even have parents at all. For many, they are left to fend for themselves without the mental capacity to make appropriate decisions.

I understand that when a crime is committed as a society we want to see someone pay, but I would submit that in certain circumstances true justice is looking at the totality of the circumstances and tailoring a decision based on what is not only fair to the victim, but also fair for the perpetrator. I know that this is not a popular position, but I guess that's why I'm a criminal defense attorney.