The Instigator
Con (against)
7 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Trying Juveniles as Adults

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 778 times Debate No: 88530
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




In the United States, there is a distinct difference between juvenile court systems and adult court systems. Typically, I will refer to "juveniles" as anyone below the age of eighteen. Some people believe that juveniles should be tried in adult court systems if their crimes are severe enough.

I believe that no one under the age of eighteen should ever be tried in an adult court system, no matter what.

Therefore, the minimum for the con side could potentially be presenting one juvenile who should be tried in an adult court system. Alternatively, you could argue that all people should be tried as adults. Another option is arguing that the age defining a juvenile in the court system should be lowered, e.g. Anyone over the age of fifteen should be tried as an adult.

Round 1 is acceptance and stating your claim.
Round 2 is opening statements.
Round 3 is rebuttals.
Round 4 is closing statements.


I accept the challenge and will be arguing for con.
The arbitrary age of 18 that signifies adulthood in the United States means nothing but the age at which you can be considered an adult. All people mature at different ages, therefor I believe that juveniles and young adults should be tried in courts according to their maturity, and not their age. Thank you for the debate, I hope we can challenge each other.
Now on to Round 2 and our opening statements.
Debate Round No. 1


Juveniles do not have full rights, which is the main reason it is unfair to give them full punishments. People under eighteen cannot vote, so under no circumstances should they be punished as much as full citizens. It does not matter how mature a person is. Their punishment must be proportional to the rights they have in this country. Eighteen is indeed an arbitrary age, but that is the age our government has chosen for voting privileges. Trying juveniles as adults is allowing someone to be fully punished by the government but not allowing them a voice in the same government. Mr. Kling, a law professor, says kids cannot vote "because, as a society, we have determined their brains are not sophisticated enough...but when kids do bad things, we decide all of a sudden we are going to treat kids as adults" (1). This shows the gross unfairness that is demonstrated by judging a young person's access to privileges and punishments in different ways. The only way this could change is by basing voting on maturity as well, but this is infeasible.

There is no way to fairly and accurately assess someone's maturity. It is incredibly easy for anyone to feign immaturity to get a shorter sentence. More importantly, there are different kinds of maturity. Emotional, intellectual, and physical to name a few. These factors all swirl together to create an overall impression of a person's development. Every defendant would have to undergo extremely lengthy psychological tests before getting their sentences. This violates the right to a speedy trial. Even then, how mature is mature enough? Does it depend on the crime? There are a lot of unanswered questions with this claim. Regardless, it appears impossible to find an unbiased judge to determine this.

This would only be more problematic if every person in the country had to have a maturity test before voting. Maturity must be judged. Age is a number. Age restrictions can be enforced fairly, while maturity restrictions are difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. It also isn't necessary. The human brain needs a certain amount of time to develop, even under the best of circumstances. Studies have been done on children and teenagers to determine their brains' capabilities. Scientists have concluded that even a teenage brain is nowhere near as mature as an adult brain. Teenagers possess less reward-based behavior (2) which makes decision making and motivation extremely difficult. They physically do not have the same self-control skills that adults have. Research shows that it is reasonable to assume teenagers are less mature than adults. They have difficult sleep cycles and different amounts of hormones (2). Simply being alive on the planet for longer periods of time allows more chances for learning through experience. Although maturity is influenced by outside forces, it is a safe bet that no one under the age of eighteen deserves to be tried as an adult.

Another problem is deciding in which facility a child should be detained. Take Morgan Geyser, for example. She was a twelve-year-old being tried as an adult. While her lawyers attempted to get her moved into the appropriate court system, Morgan had to be held somewhere. She was not allowed in juvenile detention because she was being tried as an adult. She could not go to an adult prison because she's a child. Consequently, Morgan was placed in solitary confinement, which is one of the most emotionally damaging things anyone can go through, let alone a child (3). If no one under the age of eighteen could be tried as an adult, this waiting period never would have occurred. A juvenile justice system would make sure Morgan was given a safe shelter instead of heartless isolation. This is only one example of trauma due to placing children in the adult court system. There are countless instances of this every day. In 2014, the United States had 2,500 prisoners serving a life sentence who committed their crimes as children (4). That's ridiculous.

Theoretically, even if a child possessed super-human maturity, it still would not be fair to try this child as an adult. Young peoples' brains are more pliable. A person's adult psychology is heavily influenced by what happened to that person as a child. Exposing children to the adult process carries high risks of negative psychological consequences. Ten percent of confined youth surveyed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported sexual abuse in prison. Forty-two percent lived in fear of being physically attacked (5). No child should live in this circumstances. Their brains are more vulnerable to psychological damage caused by trauma. Being exposed to adult things like this at a young age can actually lower a child's IQ, as well as increase their risk of depression and obesity (6). An adult justice system can certainly be traumatic. These children could face life sentences. Imagine being nine years old, knowing your entire life might be ripped away from you. It's dangerously stressful. In a juvenile justice system, youth cannot be incarcerated past their twenty-first birthdays (7). This removes a major amount of stress. Juvenile justice focuses on rehabilitation. The child's best interests are the most important factor. Juvenile courts ensure that children will be incarcerated in safe facilities. The whole process is designed to be appropriate for children. Adult court is dangerously unforgiving. A child's brain is simply too young to cope with this process, no matter how mature they may appear.

(2) Underwood, Nora. "The Teenage Brain." The Walrus Vol. 3, No. 9


DiligentZero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I've said everything I want to say. If Pro posts another argument, I will offer a rebuttal and conclusion.


DiligentZero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


DiligentZero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Emmarie 2 years ago
I agree with you and look forward to reading this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Overhead 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: FFs for PRO means he loses Argument: CON making an argument and PRO not means PROs was more convincing be default Sources: Again, only one side used sources.
Vote Placed by illegalcombat 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: 3/4 rounds forfeit by Pro, conduct Con.