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Are juveniles being unfairly sentenced as adults?

For most adults, it can generally be assumed that we have all made mistakes as teenagers. Young people test boundaries and take risks that they may look back on as adults and wish they had not done. Is it really fair, then, to hold a juvenile responsible for the rest of their lives for a mistake made in his or her youth? Keeping a young person certified as a juvenile in court may be the difference between an appropriate punishment and a life sentence.

More and more, it seems as though teens who are convicted of criminal behavior are being sentenced to stricter and stricter punishments. In many cases, prosecutors will try and have a child tried as an adult so that they can seek the harshest punishment possible. In Michigan, kids as young as 14 years old are being tried as adults. In fact, Michigan is among the five states responsible for more than two-thirds of juveniles who are in the adult criminal system serving life sentences. The United States is the only country that allows juveniles to be sentenced to a life behind bars.

Some sources suggest that juveniles have serious disadvantages that put them at an increased risk for being sentenced to life in prison. Simply, they are not capable of negotiating the complex legal system. In many cases, they are immature and do not understand the nature of the charges against them. They reject plea deals more than adults and they may be assigned substandard legal representation.

For these and other reasons, seeking a strong legal representative may be the determining factor in a juvenile criminal case. Young people can change. They make mistakes, but that does not mean they should be punished for the rest of their lives for their missteps.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Juvenile Offenders Sentenced To Life Can Face Harsher Treatment Than Adults: Report," Trymaine Lee, May 15, 2012

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