Juveniles Tried as Adults: The Fight for Change

Civil Litigation - July 8, 2021
Teenager wearing a hoodie leaning against outside prison fence

American teens can go to federal adult prisons.

Although teenagers are considered more vulnerable, impulsive and more likely to change in the future, they can still go to federal adult prisons. While many get out of jail by their early 20’s, being thrown into federal prison at such a young age can cause an increased exposure to physical and sexual harm, increased trauma, and suicide.

However, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is fighting to change this soon. A new legislation could put fewer teens in adult prisons by keeping them in family court.  

What the legislation could change for juveniles.

The legislation could alter the way juveniles are charged as adults and provide more opportunities for rehabilitation by ensuring that 16 and 17-year-olds start in the family court system, rather than federal prison.

The proposed legislation would apply to teens who have been accused of certain crimes like murder, first degree sexual abuse, and armed robbery. As of now, cases like this can be filed directly in adult court without approval or a say from any judge. This is even if the teen pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The fight for juvenile justice.

Many teens are being thrown into adult jails. This legislation is the latest step in a series that Racine has made to seek justice for juveniles.

Even teens who are released from federal prison by age 21 don’t have access to the same programs they would be given in family court, like education courses, vocational training and mentoring.

While the legislation would still give judges the opportunity to determine to send teens to adult prison, this reform could keep much fewer teens out of adult prison and potentially on a better path to change.

Understand juvenile rights by consulting with a provider lawyer.

To further understand current laws for juveniles, consult with your LegalShield provider lawyer to find out more about the laws in your state.


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