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The Contender
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Should juvenile offenders be tried as adults? Why?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/22/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,129 times Debate No: 53062
Debate Rounds (3)
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Certain juvenile offenders should be tried as adults. If their crime is severe enough, then they should be given the punishment they deserve. Also there is a very high recrimination rate and it is better to be safe than sorry. There are some juvenile offenders who should not be tried as adults especially if their crime is something small such as unintentional vandalism. Please give your side of this argument I myself see two sides to it.


I would like to thank the opponent for instigating this debate. Before I start with this debate, I would like to define several terms that would be essential in this debate.

1. Juvenile

Juvenile is defined as "young; youthful", usually defined as below 21

2. Offenders

Offenders is defined as "to violate or transgress"

3. Adults

Adults is defined as "having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature"

CONTENTION ONE: The Development of the Frontal Lobe and other parts of the Brain in the Youth/Juvenile Offender is Incomplete

The Frontal Lobe and the Pre-Frontal Cortex of the brain takes on several roles [3], but most notably, it takes on the role of recognizing the consequences of the actions that were going to be taken, or deciding on what action to take. For example, if person x has an age of 31, his brain would be more developed and he would recognize the consequences of his action, when compared to person y, who has an age of 14. The Frontal Lobe's development is usually completed at the age of 18, although for some people, it could end at the age of 21.

This brings me to the point; juvenile offenders have the rights to be treated as people with brains that are not fully developed. Many studies proves that this is so; it appears that the brain's synapses, a structural cell that allows electron to move through the brain, would usually start at the back and then gradually move forwards to the front. Also, myelins, the white fluid coatings that allow the synapses to flow, are less evident in the frontal lobe and the pre-frontal cortex in a children's brain when compared with an adult one. [2]

However, to make the problems worse for juvenile offenders, the part of their brains that are fairly well developed is the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that seeks awards and pleasure. According to a recent study [1], it shows that teenagers are more drawn to larger awards than adults and such. This means that teenagers are more likely to get attracted to things with large awards by teenager terms, whether it means getting attention, or acquiring huge sums of money. [4]

Therefore, it would be unfair for the juvenile offenders, whose brains aren't fully developed yet, to be trialed with law written for people whose brains are fully developed.


[1] Powell, Kendall. "How does the teenage brain work?" Nature. August 2006.




CONTENTION TWO: It violates the rights of the child

Our world is a civil rights lovefest. We love civil rights. Perhaps this is an undeniable fact; America has been going to war on the basis of Civil Rights and "Freedom" for the last 5 or 6 decades. Nevertheless, civil rights play a huge role in our current society.

Therefore we are obliged to follow the many declarations of human rights that the United Nations has declared. And the most prominent declaration/article we would have to use here is the "Declaration of the Rights of the Child"

This declaration was adopted on the 10th of December, 1959, and contains many articles/clauses describing the rights of the child. Juvenile, as defined above, are covered in this Declaration. By trialing youth offenders as adults, we are in name violating Article 2 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states:

"The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration." [1]

This article clearly states that even in the event of the child breaking the law, the best interests of the child would be the number one priority. For example, if we were to take a case of a teenage sex offender; by trialing the offender via adult laws is blatantly ignoring his rights (as declared by this declaration). It is not of his best interest to serve in jail side by side with other criminals, but it is of his best interest to be rehabilitated and studied upon; laws in some countries are also harsh, in which such crimes like sex-offense could get lifetime imprisonment. By trialing them with adult laws, we are "violating human rights" because the main aim of adult laws is to keep law and order, while neglecting the interests of the people being trialed. However, juvenile offenders, as explained before, have an undeveloped brain, and must be come under the protection of this declaration.


Contention Three: Trialing them as adults is not the solution to reducing juvenile offenses

The opponent and I wishes the best for society; however, we have different views for what is best for society. To fight juvenile offenses, we must dig into the main causes of juvenile offenses first. Juvenile offenses are caused, or influenced, by many factors, including peer influences, cultural influences, and parent-child relationships. Instead of spending our money to trial juvenile criminals via national laws, we should invest more money into avoiding, or attempting to solve, the causes of juvenile offenses. [1]

Such causes, like the social conditions of the youth, should be improved by not introducing tougher penalties, but introducing counselling programs where these children could go and solve their problems with a counsellor; this would reduce crime rates and make the youth feel safer and cared for.

Other causes, such as socio-economic factors, can be improved by macropolitics, reasons which I am not going to go into. The social factor in this can also be solved by attempting to eliminate whatever roles that culture and the current media may play in influencing this. There are many answers to this question, but raising the standards for juvenile offenders is not the way to go.


Society cannot function without law, but the law cannot be absolute. This is one of the cases where law cannot be absolute; we are dealing with the youth here. We cannot simply let the law be the absolute deciding factor in this. Because of the development of the brain of the youth, the human rights factor, and how this program will simply not work is why we should not trial Juvenile offenders accordingly to adult law.

Good luck to the opponent in his next round.

Debate Round No. 1


I agree with almost all of the points presented in the previous argument such as the maturation of the brain in an adolescent, however, certain topics I found questionable. As I said before I saw two sides too this argument that is why I agree with many of your points. In contention two, you discussed the rights of a juvenile. I agree their basic rights should not be violated under normal circumstances but crimes of a certain severity level do not constitute normal circumstances. What happens if a juvenile is violating the rights of others? There must be a point where we do not allow this conduct to be seen as acceptable in society. Although it would violate the rights of a child offender, sometimes it is necessary. For example, in a case in 2009 five children were tried as adults for "extreme acts of group violence," in which they burned a fifteen year-old for a small forty-dollar debt. In my opinion, this was a moral and just decision. I believe cases similar to this should be acted upon in the same way. Thank you for a great response in round one. I'm looking forward to learning more about this topic.
Here is a link to the case I discussed above:


I would like to thank the opponent for his reply.

The opponent has brought up a story about juvenilles violating crimes. I feel obliged to bring one up too. This is a story of a girl, whose life was troubled from the beginning, and whom is now serving jail for a crime she, as claims state, "comitted in the name of self defense". Her name is Cyntoia Brown. She has been in jail for the last 6 years; now 25, she comitted a crime when she was at the mere age of 16. She ran away from home at the age of 14, and was working as a prostitute at the age of 16, for men aged 25 to 26.

As she explains, Cyntoia thought she was running "to", not "from". However, this was a very bad decision; as she explains, she and another runaway became addicted to drugs. Cyntoia, initially a very bright girl, now became a runaway living off on the pleasure of rouge "boyfriends" She was, at one point, became a prostitute for a "boyfriend" who was snorting marijuana and abusive at many times.

Psychology proves the worth of childhood experiences; and this shall be proven again. One day, Cyntoia was walking down a street when a man named Johnny Allen parked besides her. He invited her into the car, and went to a fast food restaraunt; after buying her some food, he took her home. After watching television and eating, Cyntoia was invited to the bedroom. She initially wanted some sleep, but Johnny insisted that he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. After several attempts, Cyntoia took a .44 caliber gun and shot Johnny Allen through the back of his head.

Cyntoia, 16 at the time, was trialed according to adult laws. She was given life imprisonment.

Cases like this aren't rare at all. It is stated that 1 out of 2550 juvenile offenders are trialed to life imprisonment without any hopes of parole. Cyntoia won't be egligible for parole until she reaches the age of 67. She would not be free until 2056, 50 years after comitting a crime she insisted that she comitted on the grounds of self defense. [1]

Governments are misunderstanding the current day youth; they are not the law-abiding type of the 50s, nor are they the hippie-styled rock lovers of the 70s. The current day youth is a product of the digital age; we have access to everything in the world. We are rebellious because of our cultural influences; because of the amazing media that controls our brains, and because we are raised in a different manner from our predeccesors.

Combine our rebelliousness with the fact that our brains aren't fully developed yet; now we see that our youth can be a pain at times. We can commit several grave errors that would effect our lives forever because our minds aren't fully developed in the areas of consequence analyzing yet. But this can change.

Governments would now have to change their policies in dealing with juvenile criminals; instead of increasing penalties, which would lead to the violation of children's rights, we should do introduce programs that would eradicate the causes of these offenses; counselling programs, media censorship, and better education (for the youth) in the areas of law. These policies would lead us into a better world and a more law-abiding youth, at no cost, as opposed to raising the law to an absolute status and violating the rights of the child that were declared and agreed on years ago.

Keep in mind; I am not here to defend juvenile criminals. They deserve punishment, but not the same punishments as adults, who we look up upon as being responsible people, are given. Their freedom deserves to be taken away from them, but they still deserve minimal freedom. If we are to raise penalties for these offenders, then make room for more offenders, make more money for more lawyers, and make more pride to compensate for those lost in violating the rights of the child.

It would be unjust and immoral to trial any juvenile offenders as adults, in any case. They need help; they do not need to be punished.

I hope this is a satisfactory response; I am on a limited time schedule today, and I wish the opponent the best of luck in his next argument.


Debate Round No. 2


Jtparker1 forfeited this round.


Vote Con in the next poll. Thanks

Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by Wylted 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: FF and not very strong arguments from pro, only con cited sources.