An article by Harvard University Press - “Rethinking Juvenile Justice” centers on a central issue that emphasizes that juvenile justice does matter if the ages at which children are sentenced matters at all. The basis of the article is the 1999 Florida case of Lionel Tate, a 12-year-old boy, who murdered a neighbor’s kid, a 6-year-old girl. The boy, twice the age of the victim was playing when he executed a drop kick on the girl leading to hemorrhage and a consequent death of the girl. The boy was then committed to trial, in an adult court with a life sentence without parole; this was after a rejection of a lenient punishment and commitment to a juvenile court. The emotive result of the sentence was evident, and the merits of the case concerning social and family ramifications were clear. The sentence was on record as involving the youngest person to receive a life sentence (Scott & Steinberge, 2012).
This case was a highlight of the alarming trends that justice systems have taken regarding age at which Lionel was sentenced. The case in a number of ways spells out the importance of reconsidering Juvenile justice ages and outcomes. Firstly, the prosecutor took the extent of injuries as the evidence of intention to cause harm. An element of the accident was eliminated leading to the sentence. However, key issues relate to the questions whether Lionel was capable of causing any harm to society. The sentencing of criminals aims at separating the errant members from the others since they are capable of causing harm. Was this aspect put into consideration before pronouncing the sentence? Secondly, there were appeals based on different grounds, which finally received a fair ruling in 2003. Another crucial question is whether Lionel had the competency of standing trial. Is there fairness when trying a 14-year old on adult basis? All these questions make reference to age and the consequence the trend of lower age; Lionel’s mother had to come in and advise her son, this indicates the need for Juvenile justice and its issues. Juvenile justice has a duty to provide correction to the minor with constant assurances that a child requires such as affection and presence. UNICEF requires that treatment to a child with the appropriate delicacy. Regarding the changing of the juvenile system, then it matters that the current trend requires focusing and review since it is negating the essence of its formation: protecting a child and treating with knowledge of a child.
The family and social effects of such sentences and situations were clear from Lionel’s case. Tiffany’s parents were unhappy when the appellate court reversed the decision. The legal harm and injury is capable of hurting the society equally well. What of the juvenile’s family? Lionel’s mother was evidently hurting and bore the weight of the unfair sentence. Basing it on an unfair perception the mother advices her son to reject the lenient sentence. The Kent Ruling is also another signature case underpinning the social and family ramification of juvenile justice. The case concerns a 15-year-old Gerald Gault from Arizona. His apprehension after allegations of making an indecent call to a neighbor without informing the parents had social anglings. An article on American Bar notes that the dealings of juvenile justice are heading to a place where justice will have its victims, too. The police left no information to such parents of their child’s arrest or the charges against him. The complainant was not present during the hearings, yet the ruling sent Gerald to Industrial school. The article notes that the transition of Juvenile justice from its former self is at a place, where the child will be facing the extreme of both worlds (Scott, & Steinberge, 2010).
Juvenile policy has been undergoing transition for long. Youths of twelve are now liable to full trial applicable to adults, unlike previous cases. A line between adult and juvenile cases has been long drawn despite different reasons and at different places. Historical and legal personalities influence the modern-day understanding of juvenile limits and application. Common law lawyer William Blackstone remains an enduring figure in the history of juvenile justice. His comments argue that legal liability to a crime is only ascertainable in the existence of vicious will, i.e intention to engage in a criminal act; and secondly, the actual committing of an unlawful act. Going by Blackstone’s direction, young infants lack the discretion between an illegal and an unlawful act. However, infants must be receiving correct categorization. Clearly, age leaves a gap and ambiguity on the issue and lower ages will make the issue worse than any better. Could Blackstone judge Lionel as lacking or possessing a vicious will to murder Tiffany despite the criminal act given his age? This is not the solution, neither is fixing the age in stone. What is tenable is to have structure that mediates the interests of the child to legal pursuits; a system capable of handling each case judiciously on its merit. The answer may not be yes, but lowering the age is definitely a worse off option. American Bar note regarding Gerald’s case that the child will face extreme pains in juvenile rather than an adult court if ignorance of child responsive legislation persists; the child will starve from protection since treatment owed to a him/her is ignored as nations wander in ambiguity of age. This is so given the satirical downward review of age but deteriorating focus on juvenile systems ability to protect even the relatively older minors: the two move in opposing direction with adult criminal system having undergone phenomenal reforms in contrast. These issues continue to emphasize the need for review on age and congruence to the system’s endeavors (Asquith, 1996).
The other pertinent issue linked to juvenile age, which merits a review of juvenile policy pertains delinquent juveniles. Justice Stewart noted in Gault’s ruling that juvenile justice has a role of correcting a condition, seeking redress to juvenile delinquency. Committing children to criminal proceedings without according him/her due rights that appreciate their ages is stepping back into the native period; the period before the ingenious potential of a separate system (juvenile system) was conceived, and defeating the entire effort instead of refining it. UNICEF quotes cases in Turkey, Menisa, Zaire and Pakistan among other places, where children are facing torture and inhuman treatment. A Time magazine article states that the research indicates 37 times higher prevalence of re-arrest of a child committed to juvenile imprisonment before. Juvenile justice needs to grow up, it is hardening children into criminals, and as such, it speaks outright failure of purpose; as such, age disregard leads to criminalization of children. For instance, Lionel, even after acquittal, had a future of criminal activity, which is a proof to age concerns an importance of this matter (Morris & Giller, 1987).