The Trouble with Sentencing Kids Like Adult Criminals

Z Goodman, Staff Reporter

There is no doubting that children are capable of committing or coming up with violent plans to kill others. The events at Columbine High School back in 1999 proved this for all time. But recently four students in Summerville High School who wrote a list of the names of students they had planned to kill and were arrested for conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon.  As of press time, it seems they will be tried as juveniles.

A case that happened at our very own Indian River took place not long ago, where Nicolas Nicorvo, a fifteen-year-old student was caught with a rifle in class. According to the Watertown Daily Times,  he had allegedly planned to kill fellow classmates and staff members. After spending almost a year in the county lock-up, he has (only weeks ago) taken a plea deal wherein he was sentenced to up to three years in a state prison for second degree attempted murder.

Nicorvo, having no criminal record or other legal problems, meets the criteria for a juvenile offender, but he has been sentenced by the Jefferson County prosecutor as an adult. He was not yet 16 at the time the crime was committed, still a minor in the eyes of New York State, so why is he not spending his time in a juvenile detention rather than state prison, where the majority of inmates are much bigger, older, and likely more dangerous adults?  I see a very big disconnect with that. Although Nicorvo committed a serious crime all in all he is still a child and does not belong in state prison. New York is one of the only two states where it is legal to prosecute all youth as adults when they turn 16.

Research has shown the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, and that putting children into the adult justice system has been proven to be highly ineffective. The children are being put at risk of suffering both physical and emotional abuse. Youth in adult prison are often placed in solitary confinement as a way to protect them from the dangers of being with the other inmates, but that may also cause mental harm to the adolescent. Studies have also proven that adolescents that spent time in adult prisons are very likely to become repeat-offenders.

Children belong in rehabilitation centers and juvenile detention centers, not adult prison. The prison system is dangerous, frightening and is no place for children. There is no denying that if you commit a crime that a punishment is necessary. However, in order to help the youth and help make communities safe, the age that you can be throw into an adult prison needs to be raised.

For more on this topic, please visit “Raise the Age: NY”  or follow them on Twitter @RaisetheAgeNY

Please note: the opinion(s) above are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the entire WarriorInk staff, the teachers or administrators of Indian River High School, or the district Board of Education.