It is common knowledge that kids and adolescents make mistakes (as do adults, for that matter). Making choices and discovering the consequences is part of the learning process of growing up.
Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the role that social media is playing in the criminal justice system. Since it was launched in 2004, Facebook has become a valuable source of evidence for law enforcement agencies in solving various crimes, including theft, drug possession and vandalism.
Last month, we wrote about a teenager who was arrested after bragging about a drunk driving crash on Facebook. His online apology for hitting someone's car while driving drunk - a behavior which he described as "classic" - didn't amount to a legally admissible confession. However, it didn't take long for the post to be brought to the attention of local police, who were able to connect the teen's car to two vehicles that had been damaged in a hit-and-run crash the previous evening.
Over the last few years, school administrators and state legislators have placed a greater emphasis on the prevention of bullying in school, including "cyber-bullying." In some states, new legislation has even designated bullying and cyber-bullying as a crime.
A Temple University expert named Laurence Steinberg is convincingly advocating for reform of the juvenile justice system based on recent neurological research on adolescent brain development. His core argument is that young people who commit juvenile crime should be held accountable, but not necessarily in the ways the system attempts to do so currently.
Sometimes it takes the disclosure of a story occurring in another state for parents and law enforcement close to home to see if anything similar could be occurring in Wisconsin. For example, it was recently discovered that students at a high school located near San Francisco participated in a fantasy league involving varsity male athletes that awarded points for engaging in certain sexual acts with female students.
In June, the United States Supreme Court held that juveniles who committed murder while under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. However, the Court's holding did not make clear whether this mandate should be applied retroactively or whether it should apply only in future cases.
Accountability is an important concept for kids to learn. From the time that children are very small, they learn every day that their actions have consequences. The extent to which children may be held accountable for their actions, though, depends on the situation.
We have previously written that a criminal record can follow a person for years and negatively affect their reputation and job prospects. This is sometimes true even when the offense was minor and the conviction happened in one's teenage years.
The Wisconsin legislature recently passed a flurry of legislation as their 2011-2012 floor session came to an end in March. Among the measures passed by both the Assembly and Senate was SB 173, which is directed at various issues related to juvenile crime.