Will WI Teen Murderers Tried as Adults Be Helped in Corrections System?


The case of two Wisconsin teens convicted of murdering an elderly woman has added a layer of complexity to the long-running debate over how to handle children charged with violent crimes, reports the Sheboygan Press. Nathan Paape and Antonio Barbeau, both 14, will be sentenced next month by Judge Timothy Van Akkeren after being convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. They each face life in prison and a minimum of 20 years behind bars before they're eligible for parole. The case raises questions about whether juveniles can get the help they need when they're tried and punished as adults and whether doing so protects society or actually creates additional problems down the road.

Barbeau sustained a traumatic brain injury at age 10 that family members say left him with permanent brain damage and likely contributed to him participating in the crime. “We know he (Barbeau) did it, and his brain was compromised by his injury. But what do we do with him?” said Michael Koenigs, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who's worked with judges and attorneys to consider how brain scans can be used in criminal cases. “I don't think there's a good answer,” Koenigs said. Paape's attorneys argued unsuccessfully to shift his case to juvenile court. “Once they do get into the adult system, they are going to be put into a system that socializes them into being better criminals,” said Richard Redding, a professor of psychology and law at Chapman University.

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