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New Year, More Possibilities

Posted in Campaigns Monday, 23 January 2017

New Year, More Possibilities

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Director

Last year was a pretty good one, at least for reforms and restrictions on the practice of transferring youth to the adult criminal justice system. Two states (Louisiana and South Carolina) Raised the Age of adult criminal court jurisdiction to 18, and two other states (California and Vermont) took away the power of prosecutors to “Direct File” children into the adult system. In addition, Washington DC and Arizona passed laws to keep kids out of adult jails, and Indiana enacted a law that will allow some youth charged as adults to return to the juvenile justice system.

Whatever else may happen in 2017, progress on this front seems likely to continue.

Of the seven remaining states that treat all 17 year olds as adults, five or six will be pushing bills to Raise the Age to 18. In Missouri, bills to Raise the Age have already been filed, and in Michigan and Texas, as well as in New York and North Carolina where all 16 year olds are also treated as adults, Raise the Age proposals are coming soon.

Efforts to curtail the use of prosecutorial “Direct File” in Florida are set to resume. “Direct File” is the major mechanism that make the Sunshine State such a prolific conveyer of children to adult court.

Other states will be considering proposals to reduce automatic transfers that, without judicial review, send youth to adult court if they have been charged with certain offenses.

Getting youth out of the adult criminal justice system is a principle that enjoys clear bi-partisan support. It is viewed broadly as a necessary common-sense change that will both improve the well-being of impacted youth and enhance public safety. Despite some practical obstacles to reform, like cost, this emerging consensus means that the successful reforms of recent years, including of this past year, are almost certain to continue in 2017.

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