The Changing Tide of Criminal Justice Jobs

The Criminal Justice System was implemented hundreds of years ago to protect the innocent from persecution and to ensure criminals were appropriately punished.  Since this point in time, our ideals have become somewhat warped (as many states continue to execute seemingly innocent criminals) and the criminal justice system has become almost a joke, with overcrowded prisons and biased judges presiding over criminal courts.  It takes an idealist to look at the system and maintain that it can be corrected.  However, until this point, we are stuck with questions such as “what age is too young?”

This recent question plaguing criminal courts stems from the rise in youth violence as juveniles have overrun many communities throughout the United States and have since become a major problem for the judicial system.  With crimes rivaling that of the Melendez brothers, judges are hesitant to impose too light a sentence on children, but are equally hesitant to send them to prison where they may be further corrupted into a life of crime.  Arizona recently confronted such a quandary when debated where to send an eight-year old boy who calmly admitted how he shot his father and his father’s roommate to death.  Arizona prosecutors sought to charge the child as an adult, adding to the handful of states that have considered such options, North Carolina prosecuting a child as young as six for murder. 

Franklin Zimring, a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law has commented on this type of situation, noting that the murder policy for most states and the nation was not predicated with images of eight-year olds going on shooting sprees.  However, the modern trend in crime has led to younger criminal offenders and younger murderers; children who may not have the knowledge that what they have done is a moral and judicial crime.  While prosecutors maintain that children are aware of the difference between right and wrong, it is a difficult question to answer, especially when it involves a child’s future in the penal system.  Many judicial systems are facing the task of implementing new reforms for their juvenile systems, revamping them to deal with more severe offenses, rather than simple teenage misdemeanors. 

Policymakers continue to struggle with the notion of criminal intent in a child, as states continue to drop the age in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult.  Criminal intent is one of the essential parts of a crime, and the lack to form such intent can be vital to the defense’s case, causing an ongoing debate.  The criminal justice system is an ever-changing entity and jobs in this sector continue to be current and exciting, as so many policy changes continue to be made every day.  Having the ability to witness this change first-hand through a career in criminal justice is a welcome future for any current student of criminal justice.