Originally created 03/19/01

Discusses dilemma of trying child offenders as adults



With so many problems plaguing our youth, I once thought that trying young offenders as adults was a good solution. I thought that the possibility of harsher sentences would serve as a deterrent to children who might otherwise commit crimes. I now believe I took the wrong stance.

The highly publicized, recent sentencing of 14-year-old Lionel Tate to life in prison without parole caused me to rethink several ideas. It is certain that a murder was committed and a 6-year-old's life was lost, but was it intentional or was it an accident?

Did Lionel simply use wrong judgment in playing too rough with the young girl, as 12-year-olds often do, or is he a coldblooded killer? We may never know.

All that we know is a 6-year-old was buried and a 14-year-old is now sitting in a cold cell in an adult maximum security prison filled with hardened, career criminals.

I now realize the terrible dilemma with trying children as adults. If we are to treat youth as adults in criminal instances, why not treat them like adults in all instances? There is a reason 10-year-olds don't have driver's licenses and 8-year-olds are not allowed to buy alcohol or guns. We don't allow these things because they are kids.

They are simply not on the same mental level as adults. But somehow we expect them to suddenly "grow up" when they commit crimes. The idea is absurd.

Kristie Johnson, Augusta



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