Trying youths as adults hurts families and taxpayers, but not crime
T.J. Lane speaks to his lawyer Robert Farinacci at his initial hearing March 6 in Geauga County Juvenile Court in Chardon, Ohio. Lane has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder for killing three students at Chardon High School in February. Op-ed contributor Liz Ryan says youths that end up in adult prisons are 'the population most at risk for sexual assault, physical abuse, and suicide.'
If an Ohio juvenile court decides at a hearing today that he is competent to stand trial, 17-year-old T.J. Lane may become one of 250,000 youths prosecuted in adult criminal court every year.
Mr. Lane is accused of killing three students at Chardon High School and wounding several others in February. This is a tragedy for everyone involved. My deepest sympathies go out to the victims and their families.
The vast majority of youths in adult criminal court, however, are not charged with serious crimes, such as murder or rape. Less than 1 percent of the 2.2 million arrests of youths under 18 every year are for murder charges, and less than 5 percent of cases are for serious, violent crimes, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime report.
Most youth cases that end up in adult court, get there automatically – a result of laws, for instance, that set the age for adult trial at 16 or 17. These youths are not afforded the benefit of any kind of judicial hearing or case review by a juvenile court judge.
This nationwide practice is harmful to young people and can lead to serious, negative, and life-long consequences.