LAST May two 12-year-girls lured Payton Leutner into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin, stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead. The girls claim they were trying to appease the Slender Man, a fictional bogeyman who preys on children. Ms Leutner is now back at school, but her alleged assailants are in police custody. In Wisconsin all killers over the age of ten must begin their cases in criminal court, and on March 13th a Waukesha judge decided to try them as adults. If they are convicted, these two girls could be in prison for up to 65 years.
The practice of charging young people as adults gained momentum in America in the 1990s, as youth crime spiked. Between 1990 and 2010 the number of juveniles in adult jails went up by nearly 230% (see chart). Now about a tenth of confined young people are in an adult prison or jail. This is bad for two reasons. It is costly: more than $31,000, on average, to incarcerate an adult for a year. And it tends to turn young tearaways into serious criminals. Young people who are charged as adults are nearly 35% likelier to be rearrested than those who are tried as juveniles, according to the Centres for Disease Control. See more The Economist Article on Children in Jail