Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Q: When is a 12-year-old an adult? A: NEVER!

Way back in my law school days, I interned at a public defender office in Wisconsin, working on juvenile cases. I saw a wide range of cases, from Pokémon card theft to vandalism to battery. There was arson and some plain old runaway stuff. I saw a case involving a teen girl subjected to a search of her bra that wasn't too different from a US Supreme Court case. I saw kids from all different kinds of families, different socioeconomic backgrounds. And I saw kids of all kinds of ages, as young as 8, as old as 17.

Know what I didn't see? I didn't see one single juvenile I might have mistaken for an adult. Didn't matter what they were charged with or how old they were. They were universally just scared kids. (And I knew from scared kids as I was a 26 year-old broke law student.) The 14 and 15-year-olds I saw would have gotten crushed in the adult criminal system.

So I come with that perspective when I say I cannot fathom what on earth the prosecutors in Waukesha County are thinking by charging two 12 year-old girls as adults. It boggles the mind.
 As I've ranted before, Teenagers really aren't adults, so we shouldn't treat them as if they are when it comes to crime and punishment. But these girls aren't even there yet. They're still looking ahead to their teenage years! Go to any 7th grade classroom anywhere and try to find me even one kid who you would feel comfortable putting in adult court. I'm telling you now, that kid does not exist.

I can't believe I have to write this. I don't want to have to keep beating this very sad drum. But there is no justification for charging and trying a 12 year-old child as an adult. None. Doesn't matter what the crime is, what the child's IQ is, or what the child says about why it happened. All 12 year-old kids are kids and need to be treated as such.

Please, prosecutors of the nation, stop making me have to rant about this. Just stop doing it. We have a juvenile justice system for a reason. It's to deal with the 12-year-olds who commit crimes, yes even very serious crimes. Trust it. It actually can work if you let it.


BellsforStacy said...

So the prosecutor said that he couldn't charge them as kids because there were too many crimes? How would it work to charge them as kids? Would he not be able to charge them with everything? Or is that just an excuse?

BellsforStacy said...

And the Wisconsin law says that anyone charged with homicide over 10yo is automatically put into adult court. But since the girl didn't die … does he need to charge for homicide? And does attempted homicide count?

I'm just thinking on it. I hope the one girls attorney is able to get her into a hospital, because I do think there's some synapses that aren't firing right.

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