Since 1996, there have been 46 school shootings in America. One hundred thirty-nine students and teachers were killed. These numbers are astounding. All of the murders were adolescents during the time of the shooting. This poses the question, should our criminal justice system try them as adults?
The initial response as to whether adolescents should be held to adult standard for criminal behavior was, absolutely, as the old adage goes "do the crime, do the time." However, many psychological factors must be explored before we can make a cut and dry verdict. Some of the murders claimed their girlfriend was going out with another classmates, others claimed fellow classmates teased them or claimed they were depressed. So what does make criminals commit crimes? Some of the theories associated with criminal behavior include biological theories, sociological theories, and social psychological theories.
Biological theories view criminal behavior as the result of genetics, psychophysiology, neurological functioning, and biochemistry. Genetics play a role in that sons who are criminals have a greater likelihood of having criminal parents. Males are drawn to physical aggression more than female due to testerone levels and the possession of an extra Y chromosome. Genetics also play a role in that during prenatal development lack of nutrients or exposure to toxic agents may result in mild or severe deficits in cognition and behavior these factors are markers of aggressive behavior. With sociological theories factors such as socioeconomic status, which is based on education, occupation, income and neighborhood characteristics all play a role in sociological theories. Lower the socioeconomic status reflects a higher risk for criminal behavior. Social psychological theories claim dispositional and situational factors influence criminal behavior. I do feel these factors con hold some validity yet some sort of punishment should be put in place.
In any court trial, there are prejudices that develop, interest prejudice, specific prejudice, generic prejudice, and normative prejudice. Interest prejudice refers to the juror's interest or stake in the outcome of a trial. Specific prejudice refers to a juror holding opinions or beliefs that interfere with his or her ability to be impartial in a case. Generic prejudice refers to general prejudices (race or gender views) that would interfere with an unbiased evaluation of evidence. Normative prejudice happens when a juror believes the community supports a particular outcome of the case to the point his or her ability to decide the case with impartiality based on the evidence is compromised.
Youthful criminal choices are treated at a lesser degree than that of a typical offender for reasons like their unformed character
When treating immaturity as mitigating condition a few concerns can arise. First, young recidivists may keep committing crimes, which inflict great social harm, and therefore they will need tried as adults
One can take into consideration all of the biopsychosocial factors; however, one must like a juror have an unbiased ruling. We must also take into consideration non-bias does not mean not guilty. It means you listen and judge the facts not opinions. In the case of these murders, the criminals did an adult crime, which should have adult penalties.
Arnett, J. J. (2010). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood A Cultural Approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Pracrical Problems. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Steinberg, L., & Scott, E. S. (2003). Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Deelopmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty. American Psychologist , 1009-1018.