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Why Sentencing Children As Adults Is A Bad Idea

By Jean Troustine | Boston Magazine | November 1, 2013

As tight-knit Danvers mourns the tragic death of Colleen Ritzer, the 24-year-old math teacher found dead last week near Danvers High School, there’s some concern with what could be another potential tragedy. Ritzer’s accused killer, Philip Chism, a 14-year-old Danvers High student, is being held for murder, and in spite of his age, will be tried as an adult in an adult court.

What that means for Chism is not entirely clear given that a Grand Jury has not yet officially indicted him for first- or second-degree murder and that the laws for juveniles are in limbo, but the state’s history of juveniles being tried and sentenced as adults paints a bleak picture for youth.

Since 1996, Massachusetts has had a law on the books that’s one of the harshest in the nation, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Fair Sentencing for Youth. Unlike nearly every other state in the country, Massachusetts requires a trial in the adult criminal court for anyone who is 14 or older and charged with murder. Since Chism has been arraigned as an adult and will be tried in an adult court, there is no mechanism for the current case to be moved into the juvenile court system.

Read the full article here.