Building a Respectful Fear of the Law

Child's hands in handcuffs

There are some situations when leniency is needed, but in general, the best approach to juvenile crime is a tough stand against it. Most offenders commit crimes under the awareness that their actions are morally wrong. An example for this can be found in large, organized gangs, which are active in illegal businesses and use violence as a staple of their lifestyle. These types of criminals are completely responsible for their actions, and willingly harm others for their own interests. In a documentary by Frontline, “Juvenile Justice”, four cases of adolescent criminals were documented, one of these criminals, Manny, assaulted a family with the help of two other gang members. In the attack, Manny and his gang assaulted four men, two of them stabbed, and a pregnant woman who was repeatedly hit in the stomach with a baseball bat. Awarding leniency to Manny and his two friends would encourage crime and the mistaken belief that it is tolerated. In these cases, I believe that a more aggressive approach and the threat of justice with a disregard of age would be the most effective method in limiting and deterring adolescents from participating in violent crime. Protecting adolescents from getting their due punishment would insinuate the thought that the young go unpunished. According to Larry Siegel in his book, “Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law.”  Research by John Worrall and Tomislav Kovandzic has found that cities which have increased their police force and aggressively enforced the law have shown a decrease in the rate of juvenile crimes. Worrall and Kovandzic’s findings make it evident that when more minors feel the threat of punishment, they will feel less “safe” in committing a crime, and so fewer adolescents will associate with dangerous criminal activities. While I know that it will be emotionally painful to condemn adolescent criminals with a harsh sentence, in the knowledge that their lives will be irreversibly changed, we should remember that these criminals are responsible for their severe actions which merit them severe punishments. In the long term, a more aggressive movement for justice will discourage criminals, and send the message that bloodshed of innocents is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The Other Kind of Criminals

To first deal with the problem of adolescent crime, we must first recognize that their cases are not often black and white. Not all criminals are the same; many have different motivations for committing their crimes. Some of these criminals callously murder for their own agenda or benefit, such as members of street gangs characterized by their violence. However, there cases of adolescent criminals who are victims of years of abuse, and in desperation, they murder to defend themselves.

An excellent example of a victim-murderer would be Sara Kruzan, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, and human trafficking, furthermore, she was blackmailed into murdering a man, the same man who forced and trained her to become a prostitute. For murdering the man who victimized her, Kruzan was sentenced to life in prison. Undeniably, it is wrong to murder, however, in cases like Kruzan’s, mercy should be given. Kruzan was not attempting to make others into victims, on the contrary, it could be said that she was a victim herself. Due to her circumstances and national petitions and campaigns, her sentence was later reduced to nineteen years in prison. Like Sara said in the video, it cannot be ignored when a person takes someone’s life, but the law should not ignore the fact that she was trying to defend her family and herself, and had the law protected her from such a tragic childhood, this murder would never had happened.