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Penalties for juvenile crime: are they too severe?

A large majority of Florida adults can look back at their youth and agree that it contained a rough streak or two. Many can relate to situations in which they were harshly judged for poor decisions at a young age, and some even have experiences in juvenile detention and other correctional institutions.

While setting young people up for success is the goal of many parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, a strict penalty for a small crime is not always the answer. Recently, experts have considered the ways Florida officials handle youth crime, pointing to more effective ways to deal with serious incidents and the adolescents that cause them.

Florida's Juvenile Crimes 

Earlier this month, The Tampa Bay Times looked at Florida's criminal justice system and the ways it deals with juvenile delinquency. According to The Times, more children face prosecution in Florida than in any other state. Harsh prosecution does not only create difficulties for childrens' development; it can also make finding a career, suitable housing and other aspects of life significantly challenging. The Times notes that placing juvenile delinquents in an adult system can result in higher chances of them committing further, more serious crimes. Many Floridians might assume these consequences do not affect them, yet face threats when one small crime could potentially lead to more tragic ones in the community. Although this treatment may paint a pessimistic picture of juvenile crime in the state, officials are currently working on juvenile justice reforms.    

Current Crime Research

One way to look at juvenile crime is to examine current research, as highlighted in an ABC News report on brain development. The report focuses on research that shows that the brain continues developing into one's 20s -- an aspect that has influenced lawmakers to reconsider the juvenile justice laws established in the 1990s. Children may learn the difference between right and wrong at young ages, but rational decision-making can take years to develop. The problem of youth crime may not be black and white, but behavioral studies can give a clearer understanding of juvenile issues, as well as a child's ability to make wise and law-abiding decisions.    



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Sheppard, White, Kachergus, & DeMaggio, P.A. Attorneys & Counselors at Law.
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