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Juvenile delinquents and penalties: Harsher isn’t always better


When people think about juvenile crimes or offenders, they often imagine unruly teens who might be skipping class, drinking or using drugs. However, in the legal context, “juvenile” refers to anyone under the age of 18 and “crimes” refer to any violation of the law.

With all that in mind, we draw your attention to a troubling story from another state involving a group of kids, none of whom are older than 11. According to reports, investigators believe that five children were involved in causing major damage to a day care center and possibly stealing several electronics from a Girls and Boys Club.

Charges have yet to be filed, and the case is still under investigation. However, what is known at this point is that the five children — one of whom is only 7 years old — are accused of causing more than $25,000 of damage to the center. Reports specify that they destroyed property, scrawled obscenities on the wall, and even started a small fire.

Had this incident taken place in Ohio, the young children could be looking at some serious penalties. In accordance with state laws, a delinquent child could be sentenced to:

  • Paying fines
  • Making restitution payments
  • Performing community service
  • Being placed under community control, including probation
  • Being placed in a detention facility

It is critical that these penalties not be issued lightly, particularly when the children involved are very young. Yes, young people make mistakes, but when they are making such reckless decisions as such a young age, there is likely more going on than just youthful risk-taking.

Under these circumstances, harsh penalties may simply be ineffective, or worse, harmful. It may instead be far more beneficial to help a child secure counseling and social services they may be lacking.

When young people break the law, they often have no intention of hurting anyone. They also typically lack the awareness and brain development to appreciate the consequences of their actions.

So, while it may be tempting to some people to come down hard on kids or subject them to “tough love,” the fact is that in many cases, getting them help is a much more preferable solution so that they can learn from their mistakes and hopefully avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

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