Despite a Supreme Court ruling that bars the death penalty for crimes committed by teens under 18, some states mete out barbaric treatment – including life sentences – to children whose cases should rightly be handled through the juvenile courts, editorializes the New York Times. The newspaper urges Congress to amend the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which is up for reauthorization this year, to keep more youths out of adult jails and prisons.
A new study by Michele Deitch of the University of Texas says that every state allows juveniles to be tried as adults, and more than 20 states permit preadolescent children as young as 7 to be tried in adult courts. To the Times, “this is terrible public policy. Children who are convicted and sentenced as adults are much more likely to become violent offenders – and to return to an adult jail later on – than children tried in the juvenile justice system.”