Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Juvenile Court Jurisdiction Bill Makes Sense

Earlier today, I testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of House Bill 3229, legislation I am co-sponsoring that would expand the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds found to have committed mostly misdemeanors and other non-violent crimes.  Currently, all 17-year-old offenders are processed through the adult court system.

Research has shown that kids placed in the adult system are more likely to re-offend and to commit more violent crimes than their peers who are placed in the juvenile system.  Also, children held in adult facilities are at an increased risk of suicide and of becoming victims of physical and sexual assaults.

By placing 17-year-olds in the juvenile court system, they will be able to continue their education and participate in age-appropriate treatment and counseling.  More importantly, making this change will also ensure that parents are notified when their 17-year-old child is arrested, and will enable them to be involved in the court process, something that is not allowed under current state law because 17-year-olds are treated as adults.

Passage of House Bill 3229 would not bar 17-year-olds accused of murder from being tried and sentenced in adult court, nor would it prevent those individuals accused of other serious crimes from being indicted as youthful offenders and given adult sentences.  However, for 17-year-olds who commit lesser crimes, this change makes perfect sense.

Recently, there was an editorial in the Gloucester Daily Times further highlighting the importance of changing the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds.  Please click here to read the editorial.