In some instances, America’s most heinous crimes can be committed by individuals who are not legally recognized as adults.
The criminal justice system is sometimes forced to charge minors as young as 12-years-old as adults for crimes like aggravated battery, felony robbery, and even murder. Charging minors as adults is a heavy-handed tactic used by prosecutors to prevent young people from being subject to the more lenient sentencing guidelines of the juvenile justice system.
However, an analysis by WNYC Radio has shown that when a minor is accused of committing a serious crime, the likelihood of that minor being criminally charged as an adult is usually dependent on that minor’s race. The Guardian newspaper published a report this week, which revealed this recent analysis conducted by WNYC Radio.
According to the facts reported on this issue, the U.S. state of New Jersey has overwhelmingly charged black and Hispanic minors as adults at a rate that is much higher than white minors since 2011.
“In New Jersey, court data obtained by WNYC found 692 minors tried as adults in the past five years. The youngest were 14 years old when charged. Almost 90% are black or Latino,” wrote Sarah Gonzalez, a reporter for WNYC and New Jersey Public Radio.
When these underage minority offenders are released back into society as adults with felony convictions, they are much likely to resort directly back to a criminal lifestyle because of the stigma society has placed on them for being felons. So in essence, harshly penalizing minor offenders does not reduce the overall recidivism rate.
“Research has found that long sentences don’t deter juveniles from re-offending any more than short sentences, Gonzalez also wrote in her report.
It’s also worth noting that many U.S. public school systems are sending minors (many of whom are black and Hispanic) before judges for non-violent offenses. By the time these minors are hit with their first serious offense, they’ve already been in front of a juvenile court judge multiple times.
This works totally against them once it’s time to face the music for something more violent. In New Jersey, a 14-year-old school student can get up to 25 years in prison for a person felony if they are charged as an adult.