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Minors are not adults: just sentencing should reflect that

A recent media article discussing juvenile criminal offenders makes reasonable arguments as to why herding youthful law breakers together with older inmates convicted of crimes in adult correctional facilities is seldom, if ever, a good idea on any level.

First of all, there is that troubling element of recidivism to deal with. Multiple studies conclude that juveniles are often deeply scarred by their experiences and the treatment they receive in prisons housing older individuals.

Many of those inmates are repeat and violent offenders, and minors who are locked up with them suffer from doled-out violence in a disproportionate way. When many of them return to society, they do so with a hardened and cynical mindset that often serves as a catalyst in their return to prison.

And then there is this, as passed along by many psychologists, defense attorneys, counselors and other commentators on criminal law: Based on any number of variables, it is simply illogical and wrong to lock up teenagers with offenders who are years -- and often decades -- older.

In fact, notes the governor of one state who strongly endorses criminal law reform, it is "cruel and unusual."

They are, after all, adolescents. Most of them are first-time and nonviolent offenders. Many have simply made errors in judgment, influenced by peer pressure, intoxication and other factors that are especially linked with immaturity.

Many attorneys and advocates endorse alternatives to jail/prison and a second chance for minors who commit crimes. They stress redemption – not punishment for punishment's sake alone – when advocating for young people in communities across Pennsylvania who need focused and aggressive legal representation.

When your child is facing serious criminal charges that could involve being locked up in an adult facility, work with criminal defense attorneys who have a demonstrated record of proven advocacy in helping young people deal with criminal law challenges.

It is also important that your child’s attorney to help youthful offenders erase the stigmatizing mark of a criminal record -- whether a guilty plea or conviction -- through preventing that outcome in the first place or taking action to erase adverse information.

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