Juvenile Justice

Should violent youths get tougher punishments?


The number of juveniles under age 18 arrested for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault increased by 50 percent between 1987 and 1991, according to the FBI. Now lawmakers at the state and federal levels are scrambling to respond to Americans who see crime as their prime worry, and juvenile punishment as too short and too soft. Topping the agenda for many state legislatures are proposals to give adult sentences to violent youths, outlaw gun possession by minors and build more boot camps for juveniles. But while the public and many experts call for harsher penalties for violent youths, others say the current trend toward punitive treatment unfairly targets youths who are amenable to rehabilitation -- and doesn't put a dent in the problem.

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