Adult jails are no place for youth and judicial review is needed to restore balance to the charging of DC youth in adult court. The law in the District of Columbia allows children under the age of 18 to be incarcerated in adult facilities before they are convicted of a crime and without a judge reviewing whether adult punishment is appropriate for the individual child. Children are different from adults, and adult incarceration carries lifelong negative consequences; therefore the decision to charge a youth as an adult and detain them in an adult jail must be carefully considered. The Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act would restore balance to the decision-making process while removing children who are presumed innocent from the dangers of being housed in adult jail. This legislation was introduced during the previous session of the Council of the District of Columbia, and the JOY Campaign is hard at work trying to get it re-introduced in 2015.
What this bill does:
What this bill does not do:
|Prevent most youth from being held in adult jail while they are awaiting trial.||Prevent youth who are convicted in adult court or who a judge determines are a danger to other children in juvenile facilities from being held in adult jail.|
|Allow youth who have been charged as adults to have the adult court judge review all the available facts to determine if adult prosecution serves the public interest. If not, the judge can transfer the case down to juvenile court.
||Take away the US Attorney’s power to charge youth as adults or prevent youth from receiving long sentences in the adult system for very serious crimes.|
|End the practice of automatically charging all youth with a prior conviction in adult court, even for minor offenses and if local prosecutors think the case would be more appropriately handled in juvenile court.||Prevent youth from being judicially transferred back to adult court if they have prior adult convictions.|
About DC Youth in the Adult System
- Between 2007 and 2012, the District of Columbia held 541 individual youth between the ages of 15 and 17 in an adult jail. During 2012, DC youth spent 10,016 days in adult facilities – the equivalent of 27 years. For 58% of these days, the youth were awaiting trial and presumed innocent of the offense for which they were being held.
- Dozens of youth have been placed in solitary confinement for unknown periods of time.
Why the District should ensure that fewer youth enter the adult system:
- The Centers for Disease Control found that youth placed in the adult system are more likely to commit future crimes than similar youth treated in the juvenile system.
- Adult facilities generally do not offer the rehabilitative programs youth need to turn their lives around, and their staff are often insufficiently trained to work with youth.
- Youth in adult facilities are also at greater risk for sexual victimization, physical assault, and suicide.
How you can help?