Imagine a younger sibling or a younger cousin of yours, curious and happy, not having a care in the world. They have not yet seen the dangers of the world. Now, picture this in your head, picture there usually happy faces are now covered with fear and a sad face. Once they were free but now they are wearing shackles around their arms and their legs, shackles to big for them, shackles meant for someone older. Shackles not meant for them. Imagine if the last time you saw your younger sibling/cousin you saw them, you see them getting escorted into a big metal cage and you watch as the door slams right in their little faces. It would be awful seeing that. Kids under the age of 16 should not go to jail, even if they do commit the heinous of crimes, because they are children. Adolescents are old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, but they are too young to make the right choices yet. As Laurence Steinberg, Professor at Temple University, says “The teenage brain is like a car with a good accelerator but has a weak brake.” Studies have shown that based on adolescent’s brain development, adolescents are more likely to act on impulse, misread social cues and emotions, and/or engage in risky behavior.
Adolescents are less likely to think before they act, or pause to consider the potential consequences of their actions. These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. It just means that adolescents are not able to make wise decisions. Another reason why kids shouldn’t go to jail is that it is wrong to hold kids to adult standards. Children are not permitted to the same rights as an adult because of their inability to make wise decisions.Scientists have identified a “specific region of the brain called the amygdala which is responsible for instinctual reactions including fear and aggressive behavior.” This region develops early. However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later. For adolescents, this region of the brain is not fully grown yet.
With time, this part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into a good adulthood, and with that, good decisions. So why should children be held to adult standards when they don’t have the same rights as them. For an example we don’t say, “This is a very important election so let’s let the kids vote”, right, so why should people say, “This case is different and this kid deserves to be treated as an adult and locked away in prison”. It doesn’t make sense. Lastly, children who commit crimes, even the ones who commit the most unforgivable of crimes, can be rehabilitated and become responsible adults.
Children should not go to jail because at the time, you were too busy doing this and probably not thinking about your actions as you did. You just knew that you needed to have/do this, you weren’t thinking of other people. It’s after you got caught and were punished for it, that you reflect on your actions. You were punished for it, but you weren’t locked away for it. When it came the time again for that decision, you had learned better than that. But you didn’t even have to be locked away for that did you, You learned from your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Children who commit serious crimes still have the ability to change their lives for the better. It is now up to up to the adults to help them, and lead them out on the path of life This is why children under 16 should not go to jail.