Over the past decade, California has seen a nearly 90 percent decline in the number of youth sent to adult criminal court, about 1,000 fewer cases. A new law will halt adult prosecution of 14- and 15-year olds.
As juvenile justice reforms take hold in California and youth arrests rates plunge, far fewer teens are being prosecuted as adults, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Next year, a new state law will halt adult criminal prosecutions of youth under 16 by prohibiting their transfer into the adult system. California’s shift away from the treatment of youth as adults may serve as a model to other states. The new law promises to limit the number of youth facing adult court prosecution by ending the transfer of 14- and 15-year-olds, protecting them from the risks of criminal court conviction, which include lengthy prison sentences, reduced access to rehabilitative programming and lifelong felony records.
California’s juvenile justice system offers a range of treatment and rehabilitation options for youth under juvenile court jurisdiction. Nearly every county operates its own secure juvenile hall, camp or ranch, and the state provides counties with hundreds of millions of dollars annually for local juvenile justice programming. Over the past decade, California has seen a nearly 90 percent decline in the number of youth sent to adult criminal court, about 1,000 fewer cases. Last year, the state saw a 61 percent drop in the number of youth placed in criminal court. This shift coincided with implementation of a groundbreaking ballot initiative, Proposition 57, which ended the practice of direct filing charges against youth in criminal court at the sole discretion of a prosecutor. The decision on where to pursue charges against teens was assigned to a judge.