Judicial Reform for Juveniles


Judicial Reform for Juveniles

Recently, Cyntonia Brown who had been convicted of murder at the age of 16 was granted clemency by the Tennessee governor and will be released from prison. She had been sentenced to serve 51 years and while giving her the parole, the Governor noted that her sentence may have been too harsh. Brown’s case has garnered a lot of national attention especially on the judicial reforms needed. More often than not, teenagers commit certain crimes that get them really long sentences that they may actually miss their teen years in a world full of freedom. There are several criminal justice reform advocates that have pointed out concern to judgments and sentences granted to teenagers bearing in mind most are not often completely developed and their actions may have been influenced by certain aspects of their life unlike an adult who may clearly understand what he/she is doing.

Brown’s case where she killed a man who wanted to have sex because she felt unsafe is a case where at times sentencing may be too harsh. Brown was a victim of human trafficking and on that said day, her boss referred to as “cut throat” had sent her to the streets to get him money. She had been living with “cut throat” for a while after having to escape from her home a clear indication she was a troubled child. The US judicial system seems too often punish offenders although I believe this should not be the case and while sentencing decisions are made the aim should be rehabilitation. Although we cannot justify Brown’s killing of Allen, I agree with Governor Haslam that the sentencing was too severe for a girl who was just in her teenage years and was a victim of a manipulative drug dealer who had turned her to a prostitute (Mattise, 2019).

According to a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, hundreds of thousands of young girls are often arrested. There have been reports of the dangers these young girls may face while in prison. There have been reports of sexual assault if these young girls especially by the staff members. States that are worst affected by these cases include Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina and Illinois. When most teenage girls are sentenced to these prisons, they are often defenseless and look up to the prison law enforcers for protection. However, some these officers are taking advantage of these young girls probably because they know they may get easily scared and they have no one to run to. There should be measures put in place to ensure these acts do not happen in the prisons. According to research more than 80% of girls in the juvenile system have at one point experienced violence in their home. Most of these girls are often victims of abuse at home or trafficking (Gwynne, 2015). Some young girls have been sentenced for running away and most of the time they are often running from their abusers.

One concern from the case is placing of teenager especially those at 16 in adult prisons. It is sad that a 16-year-old is placed in a cell with individuals over 30 years’ old that have also committed serious crime. A person at the age of sixteen is still a child trying to figure out their life unlike a full grown adult. Most have argued that 16-year olds are little adults but we need to embrace the fact that these are still children and should be placed in juvenile cells. Rehabilitation in juvenile prisons is far much better than in an adult prison and this is evident in the case of The Central Park Five. Korey wise who was 16-years old and sent to adult prison had the most trauma than the rest who were sent to juvenile prison. In a juvenile prison a teenage girl may be accorded education and better amenities. There are states that still send teens to adult prisons for committing certain crimes such as murder and sexual offences. Despite the fact that the offences may be serious, the teenagers ae still young children who may not get the proper guidance in an adult orison as compared to a juvenile system (Ford, 2019).

Prison system are meant to help victims in rehabilitation and not to condemn them. Most teenagers who commit a crime at a young age are often victims or violence, made decisions without really understanding the consequences or have been misguided by an adult. In passing sentences to such cases a lot should be considered including number of years they can serve. Brown was to serve for 51 years before getting a parole meaning without the governor’s mercy she may have remained in prison till she was 67. All juvenile sentencing should be allowed parole hearing after a reasonable period and sentencing should also be fair.


Ford, C. (2019, August 30). ‘Children Are Different:’ Sentencing Juveniles as Adults. Retrieved from https://pulitzercenter.org/blog/children-are-different-sentencing-juveniles-adults.Gwynne, K. (2015, September 29).

Girls in juvenile detention are often the victims of family violence, report finds. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/29/girls-us-juvenile-detention-family-violence-sexual-abuse.

Mattise, J. (2019, January 8). Correction: Teen-Life Sentence-Clemency story. (2019, January 8). Retrieved from https://apnews.com/199ec93abff34bf2a6c79b0ec385419b.