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Introduction  
A  student  is  researching  the  criminal  justice  system  in  their  state,  and  has  located  four  sources  to  answer  the  
following  question:  
 

Should  courts  punish  violent  juvenile  offenders  as  adults?  


 

Background  
In  most  states,  an  18-­year-­old  is  automatically  sent  to  the  adult  criminal  system.  Younger  offenders  are  usually  
handled  in  the  juvenile  court  system,  which  has  a  greater  emphasis  on  rehabilitation  and  treatment.  But  all  states  
and  the  District  of  Columbia  allow  some  juvenile  offenders  to  be  transferred  into  adult  courts.  
 
Source  A  

Adult Punishments for Juveniles


Juvenile offenders end up in adult court very rarely. But some people want to make sure that never
happens, no matter the crime and no matter the criminal. But, can you really argue that adult
punishment is never appropriate for juveniles who’ve committed adult crimes?

The overwhelming majority of juvenile crimes, from petty vandalism to violent homicide, are handled
by the juvenile justice system, not adult courts. The separation of the two systems is because of the
recognized differences between juveniles and adults, and offers juveniles greater opportunities for
forgiveness and redemption. Juvenile courts exist, in large part, to rehabilitate youth who’ve done
wrong.

But that’s not possible or appropriate in every case. Some juveniles commit crimes so horrible that
justice could not be carried out in the juvenile system. Other crimes, and their perpetrators, have
qualities that should require adult punishment.

One example of this was 16-year-old Sarah Johnson’s plot to murder her parents and pin the crime on
an intruder. Her case was transferred to adult court, and Johnson was convicted and sentenced to life
in prison.

A key to providing appropriate punishment across a wide range of cases is the transfer process. The
transfer process refers to how the decision is made to move a juvenile to adult court. In some states,
judges make this decision. In others, certain crimes (like murder) automatically move a case to adult
court. This is how we separate out the few crimes committed by juveniles that deserve adult trial and
punishment.

If we take this option away, or restrict the sentences juvenile offenders can receive, it would be
impossible to provide justice in every case. Adult punishments should be available for juvenile
criminals, even if only in the most severe cases.

Adapted From: Stimson, Charles D. “Opinion: Adult Punishments for Juveniles.” NY Times, 9 December,
2015.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Source  B  
 
 
*Intellectual  ability  refers  to  how  well  a  
person  can  reason,  plan,  think,  and  
communicate.  
 
*Psychosocial  maturity  is  measured  by  
reduced  impulsivity,  improved  risk  
perception,  future  orientation,  and  
resistance  to  peer  influence.  
 
Source:  Heidi  Mueller,  Executive  
Director,  Juvenile  Justice  Commission,  
Illinois  Department  of  Human  Services.  
Retrieved  From:  http://www.dhs.state.  
il.us/page.aspx?item=64924  
 
 
Source  C  
 
 Should the U.S. Justice System Treat Juvenile Violent Offenders as Adults?

YES NO
•   The end result of a crime is the same, no •   The juvenile prison system can help kids turn their lives
matter the age of the person who commits around. Juvenile prisons are much better at rehabilitation
it. Our justice system has to hold people than adult facilities – a young person released from a
accountable for their actions. juvenile prison is far less likely to re-commit a crime
•   Harsh sentencing can act as a deterrent to than someone coming out of an adult facility.
kids who are considering committing •   Children don’t have the intellectual or moral ability to
crimes. understand the consequences of their actions.
•   Light sentences do not teach kids the •   Judgements are not fairly applied. Statistically, black
lesson they need to learn: if you commit a juvenile offenders are far more likely to be moved to
terrible crime, you will spend a adult courts (and serve adult time) than their white peers
considerable part of your life in jail. who’ve committed similar crimes.

Source Adapted From: Reaves, Jessica. “Should the Law Treat Kids and Adults Differently?” Time
Magazine. 17 May, 2001.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Source  D  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Source:  Parker,  Jeff.  “Tall  Enough  for  Prison”  Florida  Today.  2007.  
 
Source  E  
 
Some  Juvenile  Killers  Deserve  Adult  Justice  
 
Our  juvenile  justice  system  is  not  our  criminal  justice  system.  Its  design  and  goals  are  different,  and  it  is  staffed  by  
dedicated  and  committed  professionals  who  breathe  life  into  its  goals  of  balancing  the  best  interests  of  the  community  
and  the  best  interests  of  the  child.  
 
Many  young  offenders  are  diverted  from  the  juvenile  system  before  they  enter  it.  Others  are  brought  into  the  juvenile  
system  because  they  need  enhanced  supervision  by  the  courts  and  increased  services.  All  young  people  in  the  juvenile  
justice  system  are  protected  by  strict  standards  of  confidentiality  that  prevent  juvenile  mistakes  from  carrying  lifelong  
consequences.  
 
However,  Some  juveniles  commit  crimes  so  serious,  so  heinous,  that  public  safety  mandates  –  and  justice  demands  –  
full  accountability  in  our  criminal  justice  system.  There  are  those  who  argue  this  is  unfair  and  unjust.  They  say  the  
juvenile  brain  is  not  fully  developed  until  well  into  the  20s.  Therefore,  they  tell  us,  a  juvenile  should  not  be  held  to  the  
same  standards  as  an  adult  offender.  
 
Experts  calling  for  reform  say  that  three-­‐quarters  of  adolescents  lack  the  decision-­‐making  abilities  of  an  adult.  
However,  this  means  that  one-­‐quarter  of  juveniles  can  function  in  a  manner  very  similar  to  adults.  The  experts  also  
acknowledge  that  they  cannot  apply  the  general  concepts  of  the  juvenile  developing  brain  to  any  one  specific  
individual.  
 
It  is  clear  that  a  developing  adolescent  brain  does  not  prevent  deliberate,  thoughtful  actions.  It  cannot  be  an  excuse  for  
unspeakable  behavior.  It  cannot  be  used  as  a  basis  for  sweeping  reform  of  the  juvenile  system  or  to  challenge  the  
propriety  of  addressing  the  most  serious  crimes  in  our  criminal  justice  system.  
 
Source:  Weir,  Peter  A.  “Some  juvenile  killers  deserve  adult  justice.”  Denver  Post,  19  November,  2013.  
 
UNIT  4  EBAS  –  Should  courts  punish  violent  juvenile  offenders  as  adults?              Name:  _______________________  
 
Sourcing  Questions  

______ 1. Why was Source D most likely created?


A.   To communicate factual information
B.   To illustrate a trend
C.   To entertain
D.   To make a point

______ 2. Which analysis of Sources A and C are most accurate?


A.   Sources A and C summarize facts about the juvenile justice system
B.   Sources A and C provide a point of view about the juvenile justice system
C.   Sources A and C list the benefits of the juvenile justice system
D.   Sources A and C criticize the juvenile justice system

______ 3. How do Sources A and C corroborate one another?


A.   They both provide arguments for why some juveniles should be tried as adults
B.   They each describe strengths and weaknesses of the juvenile justice system
C.   They both provide arguments for why juveniles should not be tried as adults
D.   They both relate adolescent brain development to our juvenile justice system

______ 4. Which question should students first ask about Source B?


A.   Why is this information organized in a table?
B.   What is the most important point of view provided?
C.   What is the source of this information?
D.   How should these points of view be used?

Peter Weir, author of Source E, has served as a District Attorney in Colorado since 2012. In this position, he
works for the prosecutor’s office and is in charge of bringing evidence before Grand Juries.

______ 5. How might the information provided above influence the perspective of Source D?
A.   Since he works for the prosecutor’s office, he would of course be in favor of harsh punishment for
juvenile offenders
B.   Since he works in the prosecutor’s office, he would of course be against harsh punishment for
juvenile offenders
C.   His job is to prosecute juvenile crimes, so this influences what he would write.
D.   Since he works for the government, we know his writing is reliable.

______ 6. What type of source is Source C?


A.   Primary
B.   Secondary
C.   Visual
D.   Multimedia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Assume  that  the  information  provided  in  Sources  A,  B,  C,  and  D  is  credible.  Complete  the  following    
extended  response  question:  Should  courts  punish  juvenile  offenders  as  adults?    
• Develop  a  claim  in  response  to  the  question    
• Cite  evidence  from  the  provided  sources  to  support  your  claim    
• Use  your  knowledge  of  government  in  your  response    
 
 
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