How Should the Courts Handle Kids Who Commit Crimes?
Date:  06-22-2015

If a child is not an adult, should the he or she be prosecuted as an adult?
Research has shown that the human brain is not fully developed until after the age of 18. Some researchers believe that the impulse control center of the brain is not fully developed until a person reached his or her early twenties.

The Marshall Project reports that annually 250,000 people under 18 are charged as adults, and face adult sentences. This includes children in 13 states that can be tried as an adult no matter how young they are. Should an 13-year old be tried as an adult? How about a 17-year old? The debate goes on as the “Raise the Age” movement gains momentum.

Via the Marshall Project in partnership with Slate July 17, 2015

What’s Justice for Kids Who Kill?

In 2012, Kahton Anderson found a gun.

The .357 Magnum, a revolver with a silver barrel, was hidden inside the radiator in the kitchen of the apartment Kahton shared with his mother and two siblings in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Kahton said he had watched his older brother, Lakim, hide the gun there.

At first, Kahton, who was 12 at the time, only looked at the gun in its hiding place. But he quickly got to know the weapon better, removing it from the radiator, toying with it, and taking pictures of himself holding it. “If I could get some bullets for this mag, we would clear a lot of shit out,” he boasted to a friend on Facebook. By March 2013, Kahton was writing, “When beef come, we ready!”

A year later, this boy, with this gun, would take an innocent man’s life on a New York City bus. The case was easy fodder for the tabloids, which quickly dubbed Kahton a “fiend” and “thug.” It also raised some of the most difficult and pressing questions in criminal justice: What is the right venue for trying a teenager accused of murder? And is there a way to acknowledge a young defendant’s immaturity and potential to change while simultaneously holding him accountable for a terrible act? Fear of crimes like Kahton’s threatens to derail efforts in New York and other states to revise laws that treat teenagers as adults in criminal court. But a closer look at the circumstances that led to his offense illustrates the need for a system that acknowledges the gray space between adulthood and childhood—and that offers more than just adult prison sentences as the response to youthful violence.

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