Should children be tried as adults in court?

Two 12-year-old girls, who have been charged with stabbing a classmate, are currently being tried as adults in Wisconsin, AP reported.

Wisconsin law requires suspects who are at least 10 years old to be charged as adults in severe crimes. Attorneys for the girls arrested in the stabbing have said they will try to get their clients’ cases moved back to juvenile court. The Associated Press is not naming the girls while their cases could still be moved.

Allegedly the two girls stabbed their classmate to earn the favor of Slender Man, a fictional horror character. One of the suspects has already been instructed to seek mental health treatment. The judge will decide on Wednesday whether the other girl is also fit to be on trial, AP reported.

This case raises a number of concerns of whether the adult system can give the appropriate amount of care to children.

But Tina Freiburger, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor who has studied the juvenile system, said it might not be much better. Most children who end up in the juvenile court system have been truant, missed a curfew or were involved in a minor crime. The Slender Man case is rare in its violence, she said.

“Luckily, we don’t have a lot of 12-year-olds going out and committing crimes like this,” Freiburger said. “That’s a good thing. But then the bad thing is that when we have it happen, we don’t have a system in place to really deal with their needs.”

Studies done in multiple states have found more than half of the children charged as adults have some type of mental illness, she said. But she wasn’t aware of any research that compared the mental health care provided to children in the adult system to that in the juvenile system to see which was more effective.

Some criminal justice experts have called for programs specifically for children charged as adults because of the mental illness, levels of violence and long criminal histories that often mark those cases, Freiburger said.

Today’s Question: Should children be tried as adults in court?