CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Adult Prisons"

From The New York Times:

In a reversal of the tough-on-crime legislation that swept the nation in the late 1980s and ’90s, nearly half of the states have now enacted one or more laws that nudge more young offenders into the juvenile justice system, divert them from being automatically tried as adults and keep them from being placed in adult jails and prisons.

. . .

It was in 1993 that Colorado passed its laws giving prosecutors broad authority to charge young offenders as adults. Ms. Dvorchak said the system became little more than a “plea mill,” with juveniles represented by lawyers who worked chiefly with adult defendants, and who urged many of them to accept plea bargains. “No one had any independent review of whether that was appropriate for the child,” she said. Juveniles who lost at trial faced mandatory sentencing guidelines and felony convictions that could ruin their career prospects.

Ms. Dvorchak’s initial attempts to change the system failed. Legislators, she found, had been convinced by prosecutors that the minors they chose to try as adults were the worst offenders — “serial killers and rapists.” Her group produced a report that showed that 85 percent of the 1,800 cases over a 10-year period involved middle- to low-level felonies like robbery, assault and burglary; only 15 percent involved homicides and 5 percent first-degree murder.

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