Tougher penalties might deter teens

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2000

Changes in Ohio law have made it a whole lot tougher to be a teenage offender in this state.

Thursday, April 06, 2000

Changes in Ohio law have made it a whole lot tougher to be a teenage offender in this state. Commit certain crimes in Ohio and you could end up answering those charges in an adult court.

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The change does not affect every crime committed by a juvenile. There is still some allowance for mistakes and children who are more involved in mischief than mayhem.

But the penalties are stiffer where they count. Commit a crime with an adult flavor – pretty much anything with a gun – and you will answer to a much tougher standard.

And that is a consequence that is long overdue.

The rate at which serious juvenile crimes are hitting the news across the country is a little shocking. Add the recent rash of school shootings to the thousands of teens who die every year from drive-by shootings, accidental shootings, drug abuse and other horrible crimes and you have numbers that reflect a real concern for anyone who has a child he or she loves.

And that is just teen-on-teen crime. There are plenty of adults who become victims of shootings, muggings and assaults at the hands of teen criminals.

The thought of a teenage mistake putting a child in prison for life – or on death row – is terrible. No one wants to think that a child could be that unsalvageable.

But sometimes getting that teen in custody is the only way to make sure he or she breaks a pattern of ever-escalating crime. Stricter penalties and fewer loopholes are the way to make that happen.

Perhaps, in addition to courts’ efforts, Ohioans need to develop a rehabilitation program for teens that ressembles a prison, without the horrible adult influences. A bad experience there might be just what an unruly teen needs to understand the consequences of his or her choices.

Maybe we would lose a few less children to crime.