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Saturday, December 19, 2015

No Child Under 18 Should Be Tried As An Adult
The Opinion Pages
No One Younger Than 18 Should Be Tried as an Adult
Carmen Daugherty is the policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice, which is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Updated December 14, 2015, 10:40 AM

Laws that permit youth under the age of 18 to enter the adult criminal justice system represent a departure from the traditional understanding of juvenile justice — to serve the best interests of the child.
An overwhelming amount of research shows that the adult criminal justice system is ill equipped to meet the needs of youth offenders, from trial to incarceration and re-entry. Beyond what brain science reveals about adolescent development, experts contend that the adult criminal justice system does not deter repeat offenses by juveniles under 18.
Youth placed in the adult system had 34 percent more re-arrests, and often, at faster rates and more dangerous levels. Mental health needs go unmet in adult settings across the country and little training is offered to facility staff on working with the youngest offenders. Meanwhile, the juvenile justice system, more broadly, puts an emphasis on the rehabilitation, treatment, education and public safety of youth in its care. It is rare that you will find that kind of express mission — let alone a program focused on treatment and education — in state departments of corrections.
Young offenders are more likely to succeed on a personal level if they receive comprehensive services that support positive youth development. But in a broader sense, comprehensive juvenile justice is safer for society as a whole. Ninety-five percent of youth charged as adults return home by their 25th birthday: Don’t we want them better off than when they entered the system?
Yet nine states still place 17-year-olds in the adult system for any offense — including simple misdemeanors or traffic related offenses — building permanent adult records for juveniles before they are even out of high school. For North Carolina and New York, the age one goes into the adult system is 16.
Nearly every state uses a variety of legal processes to transfer youth to the adult system sometimes, either through judicial or prosecutorial discretion or through laws that prevent certain alleged offenses from being heard in juvenile or family courts.
But the federal government has released recommendations on best practices and approaches to reducing children's exposure to violence — including a recommendation to avoid prosecuting youth in adult courts that "ignore and diminish their capacity to grow."

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