Because I research juvenile justice issues in Milwaukee, 20 miles from where the bizarre Slender Man crime occurred, I've been fielding questions lately from friends and family from around the nation. Most are about the criminal justice system.
The basics of the case are, by now, familiar to many readers. Claiming they were trying to please an Internet character named Slender Man, whom they believed was real, two 12-year-old girls allegedly attempted to murder their classmate this June in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The victim, who was stabbed 19 times, was discovered by a passing cyclist and survived. Not surprisingly, this case has drawn international media attention, and likely will continue to do so in coming months.
Below are the most common questions I have been asked and my responses.
Why are 12-year-old girls being tried as adults?
Wisconsin is one of the toughest states on juvenile homicide. Since 1995, Wisconsin law has required prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases whenever the perpetrator is 10 years old or older; the prior age was 12. The intention is to offer protection to the community by incapacitating all these juvenile offenders. Consistent with the law, the girls are entering the adult criminal justice system, although their attorneys can ask that the case be moved to juvenile court.
These mandatory adult sentences are highly controversial for many reasons. Not all juvenile offenders will commit crimes years later, as adults. Efforts to predict which juveniles will and will not continue to offend, regardless of treatment and rehabilitation efforts, have been largely unsuccessful.
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