Children who are charged as adults spend months in adult facilities pending trial; many don’t end up with convictions, but do end up with collateral consequences such as gaps in high school education and an adult arrest record. Alton Pitre knows this well; growing up in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Los Angeles, encounters with the police were frequent for Alton. In his neighborhood, nicknamed “The Jungle,” Alton was placed on a gang injunction, which made his encounters with the police even more frequent, eventually leading him to get arrested at age 18 for a crime he did not commit. Alton spent many months contained in an adult unit, disrupting his education and ties with his family. After his charges were dropped, Alton was able to finish his high school education and attend community college. Alton is now a full-time student at Morehouse College as well as an advocate with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and the Campaign for Youth Justice.
CFYJ Spokespeople Bureau
Meet the Campaign for Youth Justice’s spokespeople, who have been all directly impacted by the harmful practice of trying and sentencing children as adults, either by experiencing it themselves or through a loved one.
The consequences of an adult conviction are life-long. Da’Quon knows this first hand—when he was arrested at the age of 14 for a felony, he was certified as an adult and sentenced to 48 years, 40 of them suspended. Because of reforms in Virginia, Da'Quon was house in the Department of Juvenile Justice with other youth. At DJJ, Da’Quon became a leader and a voice for the residents; his ability to grow and fully engage in services allowed him to be released after nearly 8 years in prison. After his release, Da’Quon understood the consequences of an adult conviction, as he struggled to get financial aid to attend college. Being tried and sentenced as an adults has a lot of long-lasting consequences for a youth, which range from having a hard time finding a job to never being able to vote or to get education loans. Da’Quon became very involved in the juvenile justice reform movement. Working at Legal Aid as a Community Organizer, he began to grow as an advocate. In addition to being a spokesperson for CFYJ and an outreach worker, he is also part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Youth Council.
Statistics show that Latino youth are 40% more likely to receive an adult prison sentence as white youth. If you add to that the struggle and precariousness of being an undocumented immigrant, the consequences can be dramatic for youth. But with the right support system, young people have the ability to completely turn their lives around. Originally from Mexico, Kent grew up in a poor, gang-ridden neighborhood of Los Angeles. At the age of 17, he committed a crime for which he was tried as an adult; he was facing a life sentence. After fighting his case, Kent was sentenced to 7 years in prison. He got an honorable discharge, but was arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement as soon as he was released, as he was undocumented at the time. Kent’s perseverance and transformation convinced the ICE agent to recommend against deportation. Kent is now a full-time student majoring in Political Science and Business, and works for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition to encourage other troubled youth to turn their lives around. Kent also serves on California's State Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, advising the government on ways to improve the juvenile justice system.
When children are charged as adults; their parents aren’t notified of their arrest, nor that the police are interrogating them in connection with a crime. Michelle found these facts out the hard way, when her 16 year old high school junior was arrested and charged as an adult with a felony. Based heavily on the statement he provided to the police (without any legal representation), he was waived to adult court and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Michelle’s son was then released on an electronic bracelet, and resentenced in 2016 after appealing his first sentence. Through this hardship, Michelle has learned a lot about the justice system, and how harmful it is for children to be treated as adults. She is now reunited with her son, and actively helping youth who find themselves lost in the justice system like her son once was.
Research has shown that children are amenable to rehabilitation and services. However, children who are charged as adults face the same serious sentences as adults. Growing up in a gang-involved family, Sang first became involved with the juvenile justice system at the age of 13. He was placed on bench probation, and from there spiraled deeper into the criminal justice system. When he was 17 years-old, he was sentenced as an adult to a prison term of 12.5 years due to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in place in Oregon (Measure 11). Sang currently works for the Multnomah County Juvenile Department – the same one that he went through as a teenager - as a Juvenile Counseling Assistant that supervise juveniles, some once like himself, on juvenile probation. He also sits on Oregon's State Advisory Group, advising the govermment on ways to improve the juvenile justice system.