A. Barton Hinkle on Treating Juvenile Defendants as Adult Criminals


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Texas has set the age of sexual consent at 17, and requires parental consent for an abortion—but allows children as young as 14 to be tried as adults in criminal cases. In Mississippi, children as young as 13 can be tried as adults, but cannot have an abortion without parental consent until 18. In Kansas, the age of sexual consent is 16, but the age at which a child can be tried as an adult is 10. The upshot is that, in many parts of the country, a boy or girl who has sex at 16 is treated as a defenseless child. But if the same individual shoots a gas-station owner during a robbery, he or she can be treated as a fully culpable adult. As A. Barton Hinkle observes, it's hard to see how those two conflicting perspectives can be reconciled.