Home News Center Arizona Moves to Decrease Transfer of Youth to the Adult System

Arizona Moves to Decrease Transfer of Youth to the Adult System

August 14, 2018
Josh Gordon

This year, NJJN member, the Children’s Action Alliance of Arizona (CAA), helped pass legislation that will allow young people to stay in the youth justice system up to the age of 19.

CAA has been pushing this change since 2010, having outlined the problems of treating youth as if they were adults in their 2010 report, “Improving Public Safety by Keeping Youth Out of the Adult Criminal Justice System.”

Before the passage of the legislation (HB 2356), youth justice system jurisdiction in Arizona ended at age 18. At the county attorneys’ discretion, hundreds of 17-year-old youth were often prosecuted as adults because the county attorneys felt that there was not adequate time to address their service needs nor to hold them accountable in the youth justice system. Now, with the successful passage of HB 2356, youth who are adjudicated delinquent at age 17 can stay in the youth justice system until age 19. The bill will improve outcomes for hundreds of youth each year.

Avoiding transfer of youth to the adult system by allowing them to stay longer within the juvenile system, will ultimately improve public safety by providing a platform for more effective approaches for young people. Research shows that transfer to the adult system will likely lead to increased recidivism and that youth justice systems are more equipped to connect youth to developmentally appropriate treatment and rehabilitative services that will increase the chances of young people succeeding when they return home.

“This year, credit is due to the county attorneys who worked in collaboration with defense attorneys, CAA and others towards the successful passage of this bill,” said Beth Rosenberg, LCSW, CAA Director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Policy. “This bill acknowledges adolescent brain development as a major factor in youth misbehavior and recognizes the fact that youth may need a sanction (e.g., community service, restitution, probation services or juvenile corrections, etc.) that extends past age 18, and also addresses the dire, lifelong impact of an adult conviction. We had multiple years of discussion with County Directors of Juvenile and Adult Probation and the courts on the need to get this done to rehabilitate and treat youth appropriately,” Rosenberg explained.

"It’s simple. Our kids need to be treated as kids," Rosenberg said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Going forward, CAA is working on two additional critical areas of reform. In collaboration with local partners, CAA is seeking to establish automatic sealing of a youth’s records upon completion of their case. They will also work on overhauling how fines and fees are assessed against young people.

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