Life Imprisonment of Children-Problem Evaluation


Select a current problem in one area of the criminal justice field.

Write a word paper evaluating the problem. Include the following in your paper:
?Identify the problem.
?Quantify the problem. Use numbers to identify why the problem is growing.
?Explain why the problem is important to solve.
?Provide three possible solutions for the problem.

Sample paper

Life Imprisonment of Children

There are three main components of the criminal justice field. These are law enforcement, courts and corrections. The three components deal with criminals differently depending on the criminal activity and its stage. In most cases, these three areas are often faced with challenges that sometimes affect the justice system. The sheriffs, patrol officers, detectives and federal agents are responsible for enforcing the law. They arrest the criminals; carry out investigations before handling their findings to the court system. The members of the court system take over from there. They include judges, lawyers, prosecutors and members of the jury. Their responsibility is to ensure that the people charged get a fair trial and that their rights are not infringed. Finally, the corrections stage ensures that those convicted serve their sentences accordingly.  Probation, parole and correction officers are in charge of this.

Identify the problem

The court system is where the individuals’ fate is decided. They are either proved guilty or not. There are a lot of mistakes that happen at this stage. This could be as a result of inconclusive investigations, lack of enough evidence or mistakes done in the law enforcement stage. One major problem is the life imprisonment sentence passed to young children aged between 13 and 14 years old. In most cases, these children are prosecuted in the same way as adults. During their imprisonment, there is usually minimal or no review at all. Most of these children do not have access to proper legal representation thus many are the times when their harsh sentences are never reviewed. This means that the sentences are mandatory in most cases because the nature of the crime or the child’s age is not considered. Most of the crimes do not include homicide or injuries and are conducted together with teenagers or even adults. Approximately two third of the children are black.

A good number of the children who commit crimes come from dysfunctional families and have in most cases suffered violence or sexual abuse. Parents who have illicit behavior like commercial sex workers, drug abusers or alcohol addicts often neglect their children. Most of the children from such backgrounds end up engaging in criminal activities because of poverty. Most importantly, the children commit the crimes as a desperate way to protect themselves or to come out of a tough crisis. In the process of seeking justice, none of these factors are considered. To make matters worse, the police, children protection agencies, foster homes, family courts among other bodies involved do not save the situation. The children end up serving life imprisonment. Children who have suffered trauma, violence and abuse do not develop like the normal children. Their maturity and ability to be calm and restrain from outside forces are low. (Ohnson & Toch, 1982)

Quantify the problem. Use numbers to identify why the problem is growing

In the United States, a big number of children are serving life imprisonment in adult jails. This is because they are prosecuted as adults. Approximately 3000 children have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In most states, there is no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults. There are children as young as 8 years old who have been prosecuted as adult. In some states, children between the age of 10 and 13 years can be prosecuted as adults. It is also approximated that around 10,000 children are usually in adult jails on any given day.

Explain why the problem is important to solve.

It is so important to solve this problem because children face a lot of risks then adults. When children are placed in adults’ facilities, they are likely to get suicidal. The chance that a child commits suicide in adult facilities is higher than when they are in juvenile facilities. In addition to this, the suicide rates in juvenile institutions are lower than that of the population at large. When children are abused they may get depressed and feel dejected. This situation can be worsened by locking the children in adult facilities. This is so because jails and adults prison facilities are not are not equipped with facilities necessary to cater for young people. This may trigger suicidal thoughts. In addition to this, mental illnesses are common among young teenagers. The chance of teenagers in prisons having mental illnesses range between 70 and 80 percent depending on their gender. In contrast to this, teenagers in the general population only have a 20 percent prevalence of having mental illnesses. These mental illnesses go undetected and therefore untreated in prisons. This increases the likelihood of committing suicide. ( Gray, 2008).

In addition to this, the young offenders are also vulnerable and risk being assaulted and raped. The children that are serving life imprisonment in adult prisons face a higher risk of being sexually abused than those held in juvenile institutions. In most cases, the youngest in the adult prisons are raped in the first twenty four to forty eight hours. Research also shows that these children are also assaulted by prisons staff. Some are even attacked and beaten up using a weapon.

For any kind of risk they face be it rape, suicide or assault, it endangers their lives. The conditions in adult facilities are not suitable for young offenders and it does not provide room for behavior correction. In most cases, the children locked in adult prisons commit crime again after they are released. Despite the fact that it is important to prosecute and convict young offenders, the society suffers more harm when these offenders are placed in adult prisons. This is so because they continue to commit crime after they are released because the conditions in the prisons do not facilitate behavior change. (Travis & Waul, 2003)

Provide three possible solutions for the problem.

In order to ensure that the justice system is fair to all and especially children, the problems discussed above should be addresses and solutions effected. This is because they affect the well being of the children and change the course of their lives forever. First of all, children should not be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Any juvenile charged with murder or any offenses that are not homicidal should not face a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life. This is now a law which was ruled by the Supreme Court in June 2012 and is being practiced in most states. The problem can be reduced further if all the states adopted and applied this rule.

Secondly, the Supreme Court provides that children who have not committed murder should not be sentenced to life imprisonment. This is because it is unconstitutional. In addition to this, denying offenders a chance for parole for the crimes they committed before they young children is not just cruel but also an abuse of their human rights. Every offender should be given a fair hearing and an opportunity to show that they have matured and transformed. Anything contrary to this is against the international human rights law. It states that stipulates that an offender should be granted parole for any offences done before the age of 18.

Finally, education should be made compulsory for all children. This can help to reduce crime and discourage children that are ex convicts from committing crime again. School gives children some sense of responsibility and keeps them occupied. This way, children are unlikely to form or join gangs that commit criminal activities.


Gray, L. (2008). Life sentence. New York, NY: Filmakers Library.

Ohnson, R., & Toch, H. (1982). The Pains of imprisonment. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Travis, J., & Waul, M. (2003). Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities. Washington, D.C: Urban Institute Press.

Grant Implementation by a Criminal Justice Agency