Thursday, December 17, 2009

De-Criminalizing Children

New York Times editorial "De-Criminalizing Children" (December 16th, 2009) does not adequately make the point that there exist two risks when making the decision to imprison juveniles in juvenile detention facilities or adult jails.

When [the U.S Congress] reauthorizes the [Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974] — it is already three years late — Congress should make it illegal for states to place children in adult prisons, perhaps with the exception of truly heinous criminals.

The Times bases its credenda on the belief that adult prisons have a dysgenic effect on youth imprisoned there. However, it is important to note that these marginal individuals, presumably more degenerate than the average individual in the juvenile justice system while more degenerate than the average individual in an adult prison, have their own negative effect on juveniles.

The Times may implicitly recognize this while neglecting it, evidenced by the last portion of their quoted statement.

If the objective is one of minimizing some function of crime and expenditure, we must recognize marginal juveniles may be subject to an adult externality, but the alternative is to expose other juveniles to their own--a balancing act must be made, rather than a universal condemnation.

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