The "Slenderman" Case and the Need to Reform the Criminal Justice System
Two 12 (now 13) year-old girls attempted to kill their classmate to appease a fictional character. The victim somehow survived 19 stab wounds, and now the girls have been charged with first-degree attempted murder.
The judge had a choice between trying the defendants as juveniles or adults. In the juvenile system, they would serve time until they turn 18 when they would be released and mental health treatment would no longer be guaranteed. If tried as adults, they could serve up to 65 years in an adult prison.
Citing the potential danger to the community if the girls are released at 18 and do not receive necessary mental health treatment, the judge rules in favor of trying the girls in adult court. While his concerns are valid, he just put these 12 year-old girls in serious danger. If they are sent to an adult prison, they could be serving time with individuals who may negatively influence them or cause them physical and/or emotional harm.
This illustrates the need for reform in the criminal justice system, especially in the area of how we punish criminals. The fact that there is no middle ground in a case like this is appalling.
Why is there no way to have them serve past the age of 18 in the juvenile system if the need arises? What would be the harm in keeping them in until the age of 21 in extreme cases such as this one? Or, alternatively, why is there no hearing at the age of 18 to determine whether a juvenile convicted of a serious crime should be released or sent to an adult facility to serve additional time? There needs to be a middle ground in cases like this.
The ultimate injustice is the quality of mental health care the defendants would receive in an adult prison. These girls would receive better care in the juvenile system. Everyone recognizes these girls need psychological help. A psychologist has pleaded with the court to get one of the defendant some serious treatment. However, psychological healthcare is something the criminal justice system is woefully unable to adequately provide. The need for reform is clear. There needs to be a middle ground between the juvenile and adult systems for defendants who commit serious crimes before the age of 18, and there needs to be better psychological care for inmates in our prisons. The time for change is long overdue.