One of the most challenging aspects of the justice system is the fact that juvenile offenders are often placed in the court system for adults. The penalties are much harsher and the prison environment is more dangerous than a juvenile facility, and often this leads to bad outcomes.
Being tried as an adult
It is an occasional storyline in police or court dramas that a child can be tried as an adult for a serious crime. However, in many cases, the crimes involved are not serious at all, such as minor cases of burglary. When processed through adult courts, the prison times are longer and the prisons themselves are risky, unsafe facilities with frequent violence and drug use. This is not a good environment for a child and often leads to a greater likelihood of more crimes in the future.
Lately, the trend of trying juveniles as adults is changing. More prosecutors and judges are choosing to keep kids in the juvenile system, where they get more resources and support. This is a good thing from the perspective of rehabilitation, because it means they are less likely to wind up back in court again in the future. It is also less costly and lengthy than adult prison terms can be, so it is a better deal.
Fewer jurisdictions are choosing to send juvenile offenders to adult court, and that is leading to better outcomes for everyone involved. It also opens up opportunities for diversion and other alternatives to traditional sentencing to reduce the risk of future offenses as much as possible and lowering crime rates in the community.