by Andres Ramirez
It was Saturday morning; my mother was doleful, but thrilled at the same time, like the home remedy she gives me when I’m sick. The mixture was honey and lime, bitter and sweet to get rid of the sore throat. My parents and I were headed to the youth detention center where my brother was located after he got in trouble with the police for public intoxication at his short 14 years of age. I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. As we got in to the correctional facility we were led to a back room after having to go through three security doors. We finally stumbled upon my brother and my mother immediately ran towards him to give him a hug and cry on his shoulder. After my mother composed herself, we were able to sit down and talk. I could see the desperation in my brother’s face without him saying a word. I couldn’t do anything else, but let the tears come down my cheeks and let them hit my thighs like rocks as I was sitting. He desperately said, “I want to get out of here, I can’t stand being here, and I feel like an animal.” He told my parents and me how bad it was inside the correctional facility for him, witnessing other inmates fighting over a piece of bread. This might not be an adult prison, but juveniles are encountering these types of physical confrontations at youth correctional centers. If they have these confrontations at youth facilities I can’t imagine how juveniles would put up with confrontations at an adult prison. Juveniles should not be tried as adults when they commit the same, because their brain has not been fully or normally developed and rehabilitation can provide better results for the juveniles’ futures.
One of the reasons why juveniles should not be tried as adults is because I know their brain has not been fully developed; they are too young to understand. For example, a news report from CNN talked about an eight-year-old boy who shot and killed his grandmother (Phillip and Sidner). I am sure that and eight year old wouldn’t know how to handle a gun, so why should he be tried as an adult for something he didn’t know any better? “He’s distraught. It’s really taken a toll on him. He looks visibly shaken,” said East Feliciana Parish District Attorney Samuel D’Aquilla (qtd. in Phillip and Sidner). The eight year old did not know what he did wrong. According to the article, Arrested Development, by Lizzie Buchen, during body development, the brain undergoes large-scale structural changes (Buchen par. 8). This means that while their neurons are developing, their behavior and emotional characteristics are being affected, and go through changes as well (Buchen par. 9). This makes it reasonable to say that a juveniles’ brain is not the same as an adults’. Buchen’s article also states that the juveniles’ brain develops a reward system faster, than it develops decision-making and impulse control (Buchen par. 10). So, I say if their impulse control has not been fully developed than this means that when juveniles are pressured to commit a crime they would do it because they don’t generally think about the outcome, just like how it happened to my brother.
Not only is the juveniles’ brain not fully developed, but there are instances in which juveniles who committed a crime are mentally ill (Ferris). A juvenile state correctional facility in San Francisco, California, mistreated juvenile offenders with bipolar disorders because of their mental illness; the juveniles were placed in solitary confinement for one-hundred days (Ferris). Not only were they kept away from the rest of the juveniles and going outside, but they were also kept from getting an education. They were kept in solitary confinement just because they had physical confrontations with other youth, which were triggered by their mental illness. These youth were in correctional facilities because the court believed that it would actually benefit them, and would become a path to treating the juveniles’ illness. Many people would oppose to this for example lawyer Laura Faer. “These are kids. We have a chance here to help them,” Public Counsel Lawyer Laura Faer said “But they are pretty much stealing children’s futures” (qtd. in Ferris). Others may argue and say that if the juveniles were able to commit the crime they should be punished. What people who oppose do not see is that these youths brain is not capable of understanding if they took the right decision or not. Putting the juveniles in solitary confinement is not the way to treat bipolar disorder, in fact any disorder.
If a juveniles’ brain has not been fully developed, why should they be sent to an adult prison with adults who have a fully developed brain, and can think of deviant things that a juvenile cannot? One thing that can be done is placing the juveniles in rehabilitation. In my opinion rehabilitation is another, yet better way to treat juvenile offenders. When juveniles commit the same crime as an adult they should not be tried as an adult, because once they are out of the system they are completely lost in this mainstream society (Darbouze 109 ). “Rehabilitation is practical because some rehabilitative methods addresses the personal needs of juvenile delinquents and gives juvenile delinquents realistic options to make it in society without having to recidivate” (Darbouze 109). So, why are juveniles still placed in adult prisons? Some of the treatments that rehabilitation provides are: group therapy, group housing, and family therapy (Darbouze 110). In my opinion what these treatments all have in common is that they are all family oriented. I feel that they provide a friendly environment for the juveniles to feel comfortable and be able to freely express themselves. Therefore, be able to find the root of the problem that caused them to commit a crime.
Luckily my brother was not sent to an adult prison and was able to get rehabilitated. With one of the treatments rehabilitation provides, counseling, my brother has improved for the better and not just mentally, but physically as well. Every time my parents and I speak with my brothers’ psychiatrist, we don’t hear anything else but wonderful things about how his behavior and way of thinking has changed. I know that this cannot be obtained in an adult prison because the juveniles would just be exposed to nothing but pure violence. It’s time to help and make a big positive impact on the youth of the United States; those who have fallen into the world of crime. Let’s help them and not just place them in “time out” for a long period of time thinking that after that everything will be okay.
Buchen, Lizzie. “Science in Court: Arrested Development.” Nature 484.7394 (2012): 304-306. Web. 26 Sep. 2013.
Darbouze, Kelie. “Rehabilitative Methods and the Effect on Juvenile Delinquents.” University of Maryland. University of Maryland. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Ferris, Susan. “Suit alleges mistreatment of California minors with mental health problems.” Public Integrity. The Centers for Public Integrity, 12 Aug. 2013 Web. 26 Sep. 2013.
Phillips, Rich, and Sara Sidner. “8-year-old who shot grandmother to continue living at home. get counseling.” CNN, 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Sep. 2013.
Ramirez, Ulises. Personal Interview. 25 11 2013.