Incarcerating youth under age 18 in adult facilities places them at higher risk of suicide and victimization, limits their educational and work opportunities, and makes them more likely to commit future crimes. Despite these facts, the District of Columbia continues to incarcerate youth in the adult criminal justice system. During 2012, DC youth spent 10,016 days in adult jail – the equivalent of over 27 years.
I support policies that would keep more children out of the adult criminal justice system. Policymakers should:
Prohibit the holding of youth in adult facilities while they are awaiting trial.
Give youth charged as adults a chance to convince a judge that they should be transferred back to the juvenile system.
End “once an adult always an adult,” which can result in youth being charged as adults for minor offenses.
These sensible reforms would enhance public safety, ensure that fewer youth are exposed to the harmful environment in adult jail, and grant more youth access to quality educational and positive youth development programs.