Resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.Definitions will be critical. In the United States, what currently defines juveniles and adults in the criminal justice system? How are they treated differently? (One massive point of controversy concerns the temporary nature of juvenile charges--they are essentially erased when the juvenile reaches the age of majority.) More important, why is the distinction drawn? What notions of proportionality and moral responsibility are involved? Furthermore, what constitutes a "violent felony?" What might make a violent crime a special case, worthy of adult-like treatment? And what does it mean to be "treated as an adult?" For instance, would that require juvenile violent felons to be housed in the same prison facilities as adults, or would it merely mean that the juveniles are charged and tried under the same criteria as adults, with a permanent criminal record (and public access to their criminal history; right now, juvenile criminals are not identified to the public).
Thinking about it further, there is a case to be made that the "treatment" does not extend past the arrest and trial phase--after all, they are juveniles that have been charged, not convicted. Hmm. Although the counterargument is probably that whatever distinguishes pre- and post-sentencing treatment for juveniles and adults is morally relevant to distinguish them in the first place.
This was my fourth-favorite resolution for this year, and although it tracks a little closely to the previous resolution, since it's focused on criminal justice, the topic is different enough to not feel stale. Plus, it'll be easy to research and fun to debate.
More links, analysis, and observations to come. As always, share your questions and ideas in the comments--they're what make this site so useful for so many!
P.S. Don't worry: the Nov./Dec. 2010 illegal drugs resolution post is still active, at least until January.
Added 12/2 / Clarified 12/31: The Federal Bureau of prisons defines "juvenile delinquent," which means a person who was charged as a juvenile (under 18); the upper age range for a juvenile delinquent is 21. Title 18 of US Code defines "juvenile." Could be a useful definition, especially to counter the "different states have different definitions" argument. The Supreme Court's ruling (and dissents) in Roper v. Simmons are also worth checking out.
Added 12/3: The Office of Juvenile Justice is a treasure trove of useful statistics.
Added 12/5: What are some of the risks of punishing juveniles like we punish adults? Also, how should we define "violent felonies?"
Added 12/9: Some scattered thoughts on the resolution.
Added 12/10: I cooked up a few resolutional analyses and observations for this resolution.
Added 12/15: What are some key features of the way juveniles are / may be treated in the criminal justice system? Also, here's a list of Value/Criterion pairs.
Added 12/20: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a useful intermediate-level introduction to moral justifications of punishment. (See also its article on legal punishment.)
Added 12/27: I answer a question about juvenile recidivism statistics.
Added 1/3: Guest-blogger Bri Castellini discusses the psychological implications of the Neg.
Added 1/9: Bri Castellini promotes Objectivism as a criterion, and generic case ideas for this resolution. I discuss matters of age and arbitrariness.
Added 1/19: I answer reader questions about punishing juveniles as adults.
Added 1/20: A quick thought about emotions and the law.
Added 1/24: Deconstructing the argument from brain-based differences.
Added 1/30: Due process rights for juveniles are considered.