Trying kids as adults and giving them life sentences is not productive, suggests Dan Birman in The Conversation. The case of Cyntoia Brown has fired up this debate. She was convicted of first-degree murder as a 16-year-old. She was the victim of sex trafficking and killed a man who paid to have sex with her. Her conditions were similar to slavery. As a child, Brown’s decision-making, which was already affected by a brain condition, was still in development. Sentencing her as an adult ignored these and other factors. Today, she is a different person and is completing a Bachelor’s Degree in prison. Adult lives shouldn’t be ruined by former decisions made as children.
While many juvenile prisoners don’t deserve ruined lives because of mistakes made as kids, those who commit particularly horrible crimes do, holds Peter A. Weir of the Denver Post. The not-quite-18-year-old who murdered and sexual assaulted a 10-year-old girl is one example. This murder wasn’t spontaneous but carefully planned and cold-bloodedly executed. For public safety, individuals that commit such atrocities should be jailed for good. Arguments that they are just kids or don’t know any better don’t refer to these cases. Even developing brains can make deliberate decisions, aware of the horrors and consequences they entail.