Opinions differ on how to punish violent juvenile offenders

While many teens spent their summer taking a break from school, three Memphis teens, ages 15, 16, and 17, spent their summer targeting elderly women and stealing their purses. Each teen attacked an older woman at a different Memphis business.

District Attorney General Bill Gibbons is disappointed the teens won't be tried as adults.

"Obviously feeling those were vulnerable victims," Gibbons said. "One victim is still in the hospital with a broken hip. My understanding another victim may have some serious vision problems in one eye. So these are very serious violent crimes."

Because of the nature of the crimes, Gibbons tried to have the cases transferred to adult court. Thursday a juvenile court referee ruled otherwise, meaning no conviction, and no firm sentence.

"We think a fixed determinate sentence is more appropriate," he said.

Chief probation officer Barry Mitchell says Juvenile Court may be a better place than the county jail to rehabilitate troubled teens.

"They're gonna be in with people that have got prison records," Mitchell said. "They're gonna be in with people are gonna have an influence on them, maybe a very negative influence on their life."

Gibbons says firm convictions could help prevent crimes with elderly women serving as a repeated targets.

Mitchell says rehabilitation will prevent the same thing.

"Hopefully we can get someone's life back on track," he said, "so when they turn 18, the age of majority, they can be a productive member of our society."