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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Youth in the Adult System

Youth in the Adult System: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009


  • Colorado Retains Youthful Offender System to Help Limit Placement of Youth in Adult Prisons: Colorado reenacted a law making young adults eligible for the Youthful Offender System, which had been repealed in October 2012 due to a sunset provision. A “young adult offender” is a person who is at least 18 years of age but under 20 years of age at the time the crime is committed, and under 21 years of age at the time of sentencing. Such youth may be sentenced to the Youthful Offender System for convictions of certain felonies, rather than being sent to adult prison. The Youthful Offender System is a facility within the adult Department of Corrections (DOC) that includes a high school, vocational programming, and more services than are available in adult prison. The law also mandates that the DOC implement policies to comply with the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in order to provide better protections for youth under 18 in prison. S.B. 216/Act No. 171, signed into law and effective May 10, 2013.
  • Illinois Raises the Age for Youth Charged with Felonies: Seventeen-year-olds charged with felonies in Illinois now come under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Illinois raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for youth charged with misdemeanors in 2009, and in 2010 the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission studied whether to raise the age for felonies as well. Finding that the policy change for misdemeanors was a success—public safety did not suffer, juvenile facility populations decreased, and 17-year-olds benefited from the programs and services offered by the juvenile system—the commission recommended raising the age for felonies. The raise-the-age legislation also amended custody restrictions and confidentiality and expungement provisions to align with the jurisdictional change. H.B. 2404/Act No. 98-0061, signed into law July 8, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Indiana Legislature Creates Sentencing Alternatives for Youth in the Adult System: Indiana created new sentencing alternatives for youth who have been waived to adult criminal court or who are tried as adults under the direct file statute. The court may now sentence youth in the criminal division, suspend the criminal sentence, and place the youth in the Division of Youth Services, making completion of placement in a juvenile facility a condition of the suspended criminal sentence. Prior to this law, youth transferred to adult court could not be placed in a juvenile facility. After the youth turns 18, the court must hold a review hearing prior to his or her 19th birthday to decide whether to continue the youth in juvenile placement (until age 21 at the latest), discharge the youth because sentencing objectives have been met, carry out the remaining sentence in an adult facility, or place the youth in an alternative sentencing program such as probation, home detention, or community corrections. H.E.A 1108/P.L. 104-2013, signed into law April 29, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Iowa Youth in Adult Court Gain Deferred Sentencing Option: Iowa passed legislation allowing deferred sentences for youth in adult court. The court may suspend the sentence in whole or in part, including any mandatory minimum sentences, pending successful completion of probation. Youth who are charged with the most serious felonies are not eligible for deferred sentences. Such deferred sentences are an option for youth even in situations where they are not available for adults convicted of the same offenses. S.F. 288/Act No. 42, signed into law April 24, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Maine — Older Youth Charged as Adults May Be Held in Juvenile Facilities, Rather than Adult Prisons: Maine passed legislation to allow youth convicted as adults who are between the ages of 18 and 26 to be held in juvenile facilities, rather than adult prisons. Such youth must be separated by sight and sound from the rest of the population at the juvenile facilities. The law was passed in order to serve older youth in a more rehabilitative way. The change also facilitated the closure of an adult facility and more efficient use of one of the state’s two juvenile facilities. S.P. 133/Act No. 28, signed into law and effective April 9, 2013.
  • Maryland — Task Force Recommends Expanding Jurisdiction of Juvenile Court to Limit Number of Youth Charged as Adults: The Maryland legislature established a Task Force on Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to study current laws relating to juvenile court jurisdiction and review research on best practices. The task force’s report, issued in December 2013, focuses on youth who are transferred to the adult system upon being charged with an offense that is automatically excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction. The report makes two recommendations: 1) completion of an analysis of the capital, programmatic, and staffing needs associated with a possible expansion of juvenile court jurisdiction, and 2) a revision of current law to expand juvenile court jurisdiction in certain specific situations, allowing such youth to request transfer from adult court back to juvenile court. H.B. 786/Act No. 639, signed into law May 16, 2013; effective June 1, 2013.
  • Massachusetts Raises the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: Massachusetts raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. The bill—passed unanimously in both houses despite concerns based on projected financial impact—amends all statutes related to youth in trouble with the law and criminal record information to reflect the new age of jurisdiction. The legislature heeded research indicating that any increased costs in the juvenile justice system due to the change would be offset by decreased costs in the criminal justice system. Also persuasive was the fact that new Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations scheduled to take effect in August 2013 would impose huge additional costs on the state unless 17-year-olds were brought into the juvenile justice system. Notably, the bill was supported by the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association. H.B. 1432/Act No. 84-2013, signed into law and effective September 18, 2013.
  • Missouri Expands Program Allowing Certain Youth Convicted as Adults to Receive Juvenile Disposition: Stemming from the tragic suicide of a 17-year-old boy who had been sentenced as an adult, was held in isolation in an adult prison, and was awaiting transfer to a notoriously abusive adult prison, the Missouri Legislature passed Jonathan’s Law, which expands the availability of Missouri’s dual jurisdiction program for youth convicted as adults. The dual jurisdiction program allows youth convicted as adults to have their adult criminal sentence suspended and to instead receive a juvenile disposition. The law requires judges to consider giving a juvenile disposition to youth who have been convicted as adults; if judges choose not to give a juvenile disposition—despite acceptance of the youth by the Division of Youth Services (DYS)—they must make findings on the record as to their reasons for imposing an adult sentence. All judges in Missouri must also now order a DYS evaluation for youth who are transferred to adult court to help give all youth an opportunity to qualify for the dual jurisdiction program. The law extends the age of eligibility for the dual jurisdiction program from 17 years to 17 years and six months, helping to ensure youth are not deprived of the option simply because of delays inherent to the court system. Additionally, the law removes the “once an adult, always an adult” for youth who were transferred to adult court, but not convicted. S.B. 36, signed into law June 12, 2013; effective August 28, 2013.
  • Nevada Curbs Laws Treating Youth as Adults : Nevada raised the age at which youth may be automatically transferred to adult court for murder or attempted murder from 14 to 16. However, the law simultaneously lowers the age for prosecutorial transfer of felonies from 14 to 13. The law also allows youth charged as adults to petition the court to be held in juvenile facilities while awaiting trial. Lastly, the law creates a task force to study best practices for prosecuting youth as adults and the costs and benefits of such policies. The task force is to present its recommendations to the legislature in 2015. A.B. 202/Act No. 483, signed into law June 11, 2013; effective July 1, 2013, October 1, 2013 and October 1, 2014.
  • Nevada — Older Youth Held in Adult Jails for Probation Violations are Protected from Longer Stays: A law limiting the length of detention to 30 days for youth under the age of 18 who violate probation now also applies to youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who have been placed on juvenile probation or parole and are being held in adult county jail. A.B. 207/Act No. 422, signed into law June 6, 2013; effective October 1, 2013.
  • Oregon Continues to Limit Placement of Youth in Adult Facilities: A new law in Oregon authorizes the county sheriff to send a youth sentenced to the custody of the Department of Corrections directly to a youth correctional facility if the youth was under 20 years of age at the time of sentencing and under 18 years of age at the time of the offense. The change allows youth to bypass adult intake. The law follows on the heels of H.B. 2707, passed in 2011, which established juvenile detention facilities as the default place of pre-trial confinement for youth who are facing adult criminal charges. H.B. 3183, signed into law and effective June 11, 2013.
  • Utah Amends Provisions for Judicial Transfer of Youth: In an effort to limit the number of youth transferred to adult court, a new Utah law prohibits a judge from transferring a youth to adult court if there is clear and convincing evidence that such transfer would be contrary to the best interest of the youth and the public. The youth may present evidence and, in making his or her determination whether to transfer a youth, a judge must consider two new factors: the number and nature of the youth’s prior adjudications in juvenile court and whether public safety would be better served by keeping the youth in juvenile court or transferring the youth to adult court. H.B. 105/Act No. 186, signed into law March 27, 2013; effective May 14, 2013.
  • Wyoming Requires Law Enforcement to Notify Parents When Issuing Citations to Youth: Wyoming state law now requires law enforcement to attempt to notify parents and guardians of youth who are issued citations for a violation of state or federal law or municipal ordinances. The law is an attempt to address the problem of many youth being issued citations and sent to adult court—the default court for most misdemeanors and violations in Wyoming—without their parents or guardians ever receiving notice. H.B. 175, signed into law March 7, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.

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  • Colorado Limits Direct Filing of Juvenile Cases in Adult Court: Colorado amended its current law to limit the direct filing of juvenile cases in adult court. Prior law gave unilateral discretion to prosecutors to select certain youth for prosecution in adult criminal court, with no right to judicial review at any stage of the case. The new law raises the minimum age for direct file from fourteen to sixteen and limits the offenses eligible for direct file to only the most serious crimes (Class 1 and 2 felonies, sexual assault, and violent crimes) and repeat offenses. The new law also provides all youth whose cases are direct filed with the right to request a reverse transfer back to juvenile court. Lastly, the legislation reforms sentencing provisions to eliminate mandatory minimums for mid-level crimes of violence and require all youth convicted of misdemeanors to receive a juvenile disposition. H.B. 1271/Act No. 128, signed into law and effective April 20, 2012.
  • Colorado Requires Youth Charged as Adults to Be Held in Juvenile Facilities Prior to Trial: Colorado amended its statute concerning pretrial detention of youth prosecuted as adults. Existing law provided youth with the right to a hearing to determine whether the youth’s immediate welfare or the protection of the community required that the youth be detained. Now, if the court determines after such a hearing that a youth must be detained, Colorado law requires that all youth charged as adults to be held in juvenile detention facilities rather than adult jails or pretrial facilities. Youth may only be transferred to adult jail upon petition by the juvenile facility and a court hearing. H.B. 1139/Act No. 18, signed into law and effective on March 15, 2012.
  • Connecticut Removes Some Roadblocks to Keeping Youth in Juvenile Court: Connecticut state law requires youth 14 and older charged with Class A or B felonies to be transferred to adult court, but a youth charged with a Class B felony may be sent back to juvenile court if both the prosecutor and defense counsel agree that the youth would be better served there. Prior to new legislation, the prosecutor had only 10 days to file a motion to transfer a youth back to juvenile court; the legislation eliminates the 10-day limit. For youth charged with other felonies, the law moves discretionary transfer hearings out of adult court and back to juvenile court. A court may only transfer such a case if “the best interests of the child and the public” will not be served by keeping the case in juvenile court. In making this finding, the court must consider the existence and seriousness of any prior offenses, any evidence of mental illness or intellectual disability, and the availability of appropriate services in juvenile court. H.B. 6001/Act No. 12-1, signed into law June 15, 2012; effective October 1, 2012.
  • Mississippi Removes Youth from Walnut Grove Correctional Facility and Creates Youthful Offender Unit for Youth Convicted as Adults: After Mississippi advocates filed a class-action lawsuit against the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility over conditions of confinement, provisions of a subsequent settlement agreement were incorporated into state legislation. In addition to the lawsuit, the facility was simultaneously subject to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which found that the conditions at Walnut Grove violated the constitutional rights of youth. The investigation revealed that staff engaged in sexual misconduct with youth, used excessive force, and were deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm youth posed to one another, youth’s mental health needs, and youth’s serious medical needs. The legislation required youth under 22 years old to be removed from Walnut Grove and directed the Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish a youthful offender unit to house youth 17-years-old and younger who have been convicted as adults; youth ages 18 or 19 may also be housed in the Youthful Offender Unit at the discretion of the DOC Commissioner. The Youthful Offender Unit opened in December of 2012; youth housed there must have interactive, structured rehabilitative and/or educational programming and recreational and leisure activities outside of their cells. All programming must be tailored to the developmental needs of adolescents. H.B. 523/Act No. 489, signed into law and effective April 26, 2012.
  • Nebraska Raises the Minimum Age for Youth to Be Sent to Secure Juvenile Facilities: The Nebraska Legislature raised the minimum age for commitment to youth rehabilitation and treatment centers (YRTCs) from 12 to 14, with exceptions for youth who commit murder or manslaughter, commit other offenses that lead the court to deem commitment is necessary, or violate probation. The law also mandates employee training to improve YRTC safety. Notably, the legislature rejected a bill that would have moved YRTCs under the control of the Department of Correctional Services, where youth would be unable to access the rehabilitative services provided by the Office of Juvenile Services. L.B. 972, signed into law April 10, 2012; effective July 19, 2012.
  • New Jersey — Appeals Court Rules that Transfer to Adult Facility without Due Process Violates Youth’s Rights New Jersey law permits youth aged 16 or older to be transferred from a juvenile facility to an adult facility if the youth’s “continued presence in the juvenile facility threatens the public safety, the safety of [other confined youth], or the ability of the commission to operate the program in the manner intended.” The state maintained that such youth could be transferred without any due process, and transferred the youth in this case without any prior notice to him, his family, his attorney, or the juvenile judge. However, the appellate court disagreed and invalidated the transfer, holding that, given the adult prison’s focus on punishment and security, rather than rehabilitation, youth must be provided due process—including written notice of the transfer with the supporting factual basis, the opportunity to be heard and present opposition, some form of representation, and written findings of fact supporting the decision to proceed with the transfer. State of New Jersey in the Interest of J.J., A-2357-11T2, decided August 28, 2012.
  • Vermont Revises Delinquency Proceedings to Expand Options for Youth: Vermont revised its laws governing delinquency proceedings in order to create more consistency in proceedings and to expand options available through the family court to help reduce the number of older youth who are processed in adult court. The legislation extends the maximum age that a youth can remain under juvenile probation to 18-and-a-half. Additionally, the law mandates that all youth referred to the delinquency docket have the opportunity to participate in a standard screening/assessment. The identified risk level must then be provided to the prosecutor, who may use it to help decide whether to send the youth to court or to a diversion program. Lastly, the law allows the court to refer youth who plead guilty to delinquency offenses directly to a community-based alternative—bypassing several hearings and probation—where victim restoration and the youth’s skills and needs are addressed. H.B. 751/Act No. 159, signed into law May 17, 2012; effective July 1, 2012.

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  • Arizona — Judges Gain More Discretion Regarding Transfer to Adult System: A new Arizona law gives judges more discretion in certain cases to decide whether prosecution of youth in adult or juvenile court will best protect public safety and promote rehabilitation. Since 1997, Arizona prosecutors have been able, at their sole discretion, to charge youth as young as 14 as adults for a wide variety of offenses, including nonviolent crimes. In 2007, judges were given discretion in certain sex offense cases to hold “reverse remand hearings” to determine whether youth should be tried as adults; the new law expands reverse remand hearings to include other types of crimes filed through prosecutorial discretion. S.B. 1191/Ch. 206, signed into law April 19, 2011; effective July 20, 2011.
  • Hawaii — Legislature Limits Transfer of Youth to Adult Correctional Facilities: The Hawaii State Legislature repealed a law that authorized the Executive Director of the Office of Youth Services, with the approval of the family court, to transfer a committed youth from the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to an adult correctional facility for disciplinary or other reasons. The legislation stemmed from the inability of adult facilities in Hawaii to maintain sight-and-sound separation between youth and adults, as required by the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Testimony in support of the law from several state agencies and non-profit organizations additionally discussed the danger presented to youth placed in adult facilities, and the inadequacy of programming for youth in adult facilities. H.B. 1067/Act 18, signed into law April 26, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Idaho — Youth Tried as Adults May Be Held in Juvenile Detention Facilities: Idaho law now provides that youth being treated as adult offenders may be housed with the general population in a juvenile detention center upon court order. The court may make the order on its own, or pursuant to a petition by one of the parties in the case. Prior law prohibited youth who were waived to adult court from being housed in a juvenile detention facility without sight and sound separation from the other youth. Youth waived to adult court may now be housed with the general juvenile population if it is determined by the detention administration that the safety and security of the other youth would not be at risk. In passing the law, the legislature acknowledged that it is in the best interest of youth being tried as adults to be held with other youth their own age while awaiting trial, sentencing, or other disposition. S.B. 1003/Ch. 7, signed into law February 18, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Mississippi — State Extends Jurisdiction of Juvenile Court to 17-Year-Olds: New Mississippi legislation returns 17-year-olds charged with felonies (with the exception of murder, armed robbery and rape) to the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Prior to this legislation, all 17-year-olds were automatically prosecuted in adult court for any offense. S.B. 2969/Ch. 542, signed into law April 27, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Oregon — Youth in Oregon Must Be Held in Juvenile Detention Pre-Trial, Rather than Adult Jails: A new Oregon law makes juvenile detention the default place to hold youth charged as adults pre-trial. The bill addressed a glaring inconsistency in Oregon law, through which such youth were to be held in adult jail before trial and in youth facilities after conviction. The law—which could benefit nearly 100 youth per year—is a part of ongoing efforts to address Oregon laws that automatically waive youth into the adult system. H.B. 2707/Ch. 122, signed into law and effective May 19, 2011.
  • Oregon — Oregon Youth Authority and Oregon Department of Corrections Stop Temporarily Housing Youth in Adult Prison: The Oregon Youth Authority and Oregon Department of Corrections have agreed to streamline the placement of youth convicted as adults. Prior to the change, 16- and 17-year-olds convicted as adults were sent to an adult facility for approximately one week to complete the evaluation and intake process, before being moved to a youth facility to serve all or part of the imposed sentence. Youth at the adult facility were forced to spend 23 hours a day in isolation in order to maintain sight and sound separation from the adults. Such conditions can increase anxiety, paranoia, and suicide risk; additionally, youth who are held in adult facilities are at an increased risk of physical and sexual victimization. As of December 15, 2011, all youth sentenced as adults will go directly to a youth intake facility.
  • Texas — State Increases Protections for Youth Transferred to Adult System: A new Texas law requires that the sight and sound protections for youth in the juvenile system also now apply to youth under age 17 who are tried as adults; all such youth must be separated by sight and sound from adults in the same facility. Additionally, the law mandates that counties develop policies specifying whether certain transferred youth under 17 years of age may be held pre-trial in a juvenile detention facility, rather than an adult jail. Prior to the change, counties were prohibited from holding transferred youth in juvenile detention facilities. S.B. 1209, signed into law June 17, 2011; effective September 1, 2011.
  • Vermont — Youth Convicted as Adults Before Age 21 May Have Records Sealed: Vermont law now allows youth convicted as adults for crimes committed before they were 21 years old to petition to have their records sealed. Previously, the law allowed such record-sealing only if the conviction occurred for offenses committed prior to age 18. The law additionally closes a loophole that forced a youth to be charged in adult court if 18 or older, despite having committed the offense prior to age 18. Such cases must now be initially filed in juvenile court. S.B. 58/Act 16, signed into law and effective May 9, 2011.

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  • Arizona — Legislation Restricts Prosecutorial Authority to Transfer Youth: A new Arizona law clarifies the age at which a youth can be tried in adult court without the benefit of a judicial transfer hearing. In Arizona, the prosecution of certain youth cases in adult court is statutorily allowed or required based on the youth’s age. The legislation clarifies that the filing in adult court must be based on the youth’s age at the time of the alleged offense—not the age at the time the charges are filed. Prior to this clarification, prosecutors delayed filing charges for months (and sometimes years) for the purpose of moving the case to the adult criminal court without having to go through a judicial transfer hearing. S.B. 1009/Ch. 183, signed into law April 27, 2010; effective July 29, 2010.
  • Colorado — Law Limits Prosecutorial Discretion to File Adult Charges Against a Youth: A new law increases the minimum age at which certain youth (excepting those charged with murder and sex offenses) are eligible to be “direct filed”—or charged in adult criminal court by a prosecutor without a transfer hearing—from 14 to 16. The legislation also establishes factors that the prosecutor must consider in determining whether to direct file a youth, and requires a 14-day notice of intention to direct file. During this time, youth can provide information to the prosecutor regarding the enumerated factors. H.B. 1413/Ch. 264, signed into law May 25, 2010; effective August 11, 2010.
  • Colorado — School Districts Must Provide Educational Services for Youth in Adult Jails: A law now requires school districts in Colorado to provide educational services during the school year to youth being held, pending trial as adults, in jails located within the district. The law also requires school districts to comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act if a youth has a disability. S.B. 54/Ch. 265, signed into law and effective May 25, 2010.
  • Illinois — Commission to Develop Plan for Extending Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to 17-Year-Olds Charged with Felonies: The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission is to study and report on possible expansion of the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies. The commission’s mandate builds on legislation passed in 2009 that raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 for youth charged with misdemeanors (see above, S.B. 2275/Public Act 95-1031). S.B. 3085/Public Act 96-1199, signed into law July 22, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Illinois — Law Allows Greater Separation Between Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections: A new Illinois law removes the requirement that the Department of Juvenile Justice share administrative services and facilities with the Department of Corrections. The law additionally encourages collaboration between the Department of Juvenile Justice and “child-serving agencies.” The change helps to further differentiate the adult and juvenile systems, and ensure youth are treated in an age-appropriate manner. H.B. 5913/ Public Act 96-1022, signed into law July 7, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Minnesota — Youth Charged as Adults in Minnesota May Be Held in Juvenile Detention Facilities: Youth charged as adults in Minnesota may now be held in secure juvenile detention facilities, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings against them. The change will help keep some youth out of adult facilities prior to a conviction or acquittal. H.F. 229/Ch. 72, signed into law May 24, 2011; effective August 1, 2011.
  • National — U.S. Supreme Court Prohibits Sentence of Life Without Parole for Youth Who Commit Non-Homicide Offenses: In Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is unconstitutional to sentence youth who did not commit homicide to life without the possibility of parole. States must provide youth with a “meaningful opportunity” to turn their lives around and obtain release. The opinion finds the punishment to be cruel and unusual, and states that youths’ developing brains make it impossible to determine if they are beyond rehabilitation. The court once again clarified the dividing age between youth and adulthood as the age of 18. Lastly, the Supreme Court compared sentencing practices in the U.S. to international norms, which decry the use of life without parole as a sentence for youth.
  • North Carolina — Legislature Establishes Task Force to Evaluate Raising Age: North Carolina’s 2010 budget included language to establish a Youth Accountability Planning Task Force. The task force is to determine whether North Carolina should raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18 and develop an implementation plan to do so. The task force released a report in January 2011, which recommends that youth under age 18 accused of minor crimes should be handled in the juvenile justice system, while 16- and 17-year-olds accused of serious felonies should remain in the adult system. Also in January 2011, the Vera Institute of Justice issued a cost-benefit analysis of raising the age in North Carolina. The analysis found that expanding juvenile jurisdiction to include misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses for 16- and 17-yearolds would annually yield $52.3 million in net benefits. The governor issued an executive order early in 2011 extending the task force until December 31, 2012 so that the group can continue its work. Executive Order 80, January 14, 2011.
  • New Mexico — Working Group Considers Appropriate Detention Placement for Older Youth: In 2009, the New Mexico House of Representatives requested that the Children, Youth and Families Department convene a working group to share resources, research, and recommendations and to otherwise coordinate efforts on the subject of appropriate detention for youth 18-21 years of age. The working group was directed to address concerns regarding housing older youth with adults, as well as concerns with housing such youth with youth aged 12-17. A duplicate House Memorial was passed in 2010 to continue the work of the group. The group made a series of recommendations in 2010 covering various topics, such as when youth may be transferred to adult jails, time limits for initial hearings, hearing procedures, and measures to protect youth aged 18-21 who are placed in adult jails. H.M. 115, 2009/H.M. 29, 2010.
  • Virginia — Youth Transferred to Adult System May Be Detained in Juvenile Facilities: Youth in Virginia who are transferred to the adult system must now be placed in a secure juvenile detention facility pending trial, rather than an adult jail, unless the court determines that the youth is a threat to the security or safety of other detained youth or staff. S.B. 259/Ch. 739, signed into law April 13, 2010; effective July 1, 2010.

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  • Colorado — Certain Youth Tried as Adults May Be Held in Juvenile Facilities Rather than Adult Jail: Juveniles who are tried as adults may be placed in a juvenile facility prior to trial, rather than an adult jail, if the district attorney and defense counsel agree on the placement. Additionally, the district attorney may agree to change the place of confinement from adult jail to a juvenile facility at any stage of the proceedings. To determine the appropriate placement, the district attorney and defense counsel must consider several factors, including the nature, seriousness, and circumstances of the alleged offense; the youth’s history of prior criminal acts; and the youth’s age, physical maturity, mental state, and mental maturity. H.B.1321/Ch. 351, signed into law June 1, 2009.
  • Colorado — Law Allows Youth Charged as Adults to Petition for Expungement of Records When Sentenced as Juveniles: Colorado law now permits a juvenile who is charged as an adult by the direct filing of charges in district court, but sentenced as a juvenile in the same matter, to petition the court for the expungement of his or her record. Previously, such youth were not eligible to have their records expunged. H.B. 1044/Ch. 19, signed into law March 18, 2009; effective September 1, 2009.
  • Colorado — Legislature Increases Age of Eligibility for Sentencing in the Youthful Offender System: A new category of youth was established by the Colorado General Assembly to be eligible for sentencing in the Youthful Offender System (YOS) for certain offenses. YOS offers these youth—referred to as “young adult offenders”—alternatives to what would otherwise be a mandatory prison sentence. Young adult offenders are those who were at least 18 years old but under 20 years of age when the crime was committed and under 21 years old at the time of sentencing. Under the law, the prosecution or defense may request a pre-sentence report that includes a determination by the warden of the Youthful Offender System as to whether the young person is suitable for sentencing in YOS; the warden must consider the nature and circumstances of the crime, the circumstances and criminal history of the individual, and available bed space. YOS offers educational and vocational programming and a shorter period of community supervision than an adult prison and parole sentence. All YOS youth have a suspended adult prison sentence, which is two to four times longer than the two- to seven-year determinate YOS term. Successful completion of YOS discharges the adult prison sentence. H.B. 1122/Ch. 77, signed into law April 2, 2009; effective October 1, 2009.
  • Connecticut — Sixteen-Year-Olds Returned to Juvenile Justice System: Starting January 1, 2010, 16-year-olds became a part of Connecticut’s juvenile justice system. Legislation passed in 2007 called for 16- and 17-year-olds to be moved into the juvenile system (except youth who had committed specific serious and violent offenses), but the state’s budget crisis and other efforts to repeal the law on philosophical or administrative grounds threatened to delay implementation for all youth. Further legislation passed in 2009 moved 16-year-olds into the juvenile justice system as of 2010 and specifies how the change will be implemented. Seventeen-year-olds became part of the juvenile system as of July 1, 2012. H.B.7007/Public Act 09-7, signed into law October 5, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
  • Connecticut — Court Finds Discretionary Transfer of 14- and 15-Year-Olds to Adult Court Unconstitutional: On June 16, 2009, the Connecticut Appellate Court ruled in State of Connecticut v. David A. Fernandes, Jr., 115 Conn. App. 180 (2009), that the state’s discretionary transfer law, which allows prosecutors to send 14- and 15-year-olds charged with C, D, and unclassified felonies to adult court, is unconstitutional. The court held that because of the liberty interest at stake, a youth facing transfer on such charges is entitled to due process. Such due process includes a hearing during which the juvenile court judge considers argument from counsel and may exercise his or her discretion to determine whether to order the transfer. The Connecticut Supreme Court later heard the case on appeal and limited the scope of the ruling; the court agreed that a hearing must be held, but determined that the legislative history of the transfer statute required such hearings to be held in adult court, rather than juvenile court. State v. Fernandes, 300 Conn. 104 (2010).
  • Illinois — Law Raises the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction from 17 to 18 for Youth Charged with Misdemeanors: Seventeen-year-olds charged only with misdemeanors will now have their cases heard in juvenile court, rather than adult criminal court. The juvenile court typically takes a more balanced and rehabilitative approach— offering mental health and drug treatment and community-based services—as opposed to the more punitive approach of the adult system. The law will also help to address the disproportionate number of 17-year-old African American and Latino youth who are currently charged as adults. S.B. 2275/Public Act 95-1031, signed into law February 10, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
  • Indiana — Newly Created Division of Youth Services Removes Youth from Umbrella of Adult Correctional System: Indiana’s new Division of Youth Services will be a semi-autonomous division of the Indiana Department of Correction and will operate youth facilities separate from the adult correctional system. DYS will work to improve the level of services provided to youth throughout the juvenile justice system with enhanced facility operations, as well as treatment, youth development, and community reentry programs.
  • Massachusetts — Supreme Judicial Court Finds State “Extension Law” Unconstitutional: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a state law allowing the Department of Youth Services to extend commitments from age 18 to age 21—and even to have the individuals transferred to adult prisons—is unconstitutional. The three individuals who challenged the law had received extended commitments on the basis that they were “physically dangerous to the public.” The court held that the term “physically dangerous” is unconstitutionally vague and that the law violated substantive due process because it permitted extended detention based solely on dangerousness, without any link to a mental condition that might keep the individuals from controlling their behavior. Kenniston v. Department of Youth Services, 453 Mass. 179 (2009).
  • Nevada — Supreme Court Strikes Down Presumptive Certification Statute: The Nevada Supreme Court threw out the presumptive certification statute that allowed prosecutors to transfer certain cases to adult court, finding that the statute violated youths’ constitutional right against self-incrimination. Under the presumptive certification law, if a youth 14 or older was charged with gun crimes or certain sex crimes and the prosecutor moved to transfer the youth to adult court, the juvenile court was required to order the transfer unless the youth could rebut the presumption by establishing that he or she had substance abuse or emotional or behavioral problems that led to the commission of the crime(s). But by making that connection, the youth admitted to the crimes, and those admissions could be used against him or her in future court hearings. The court’s unanimous ruling states that the law’s “requirement that a juvenile admit the charged criminal conduct, and thereby incriminate himself, in order to overcome the presumption of adult supervision is unconstitutional.” The court also reversed a 1995 decision that said Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination did not apply in juvenile certification hearings because guilt was not being determined. The Nevada Legislature codified the court’s 2009 ruling and raised the threshold age at which a youth may be certified as an adult under presumptive certification from 14 to 16. In re William M., 124 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 95 (Nev. 2008); A.B. 237/Ch. 69, signed into law and effective May 11, 2009.
  • Texas — Law Allows for More In-Depth Review by Attorneys Prior to Transfer Hearings: When a youth faces transfer to adult court, at least five days prior to the transfer hearing the court must provide to the youth’s attorney and the prosecuting attorney all written matter that the court will consider in making the transfer decision. Previously, the court was required to provide this material only one day before the hearing. The goal of the law is to encourage more thorough review by attorneys, increased information-sharing, and fewer inappropriate transfers to adult court. S.B. 518, signed into law June 19, 2009; effective September 1, 2009.
  • Texas — Youth Convicted of Capital Felonies Given Opportunity for Parole: Youth ages 14 to 17 in Texas who are found guilty of a capital felony now have the opportunity for parole. Previously, these youth could only be sentenced to life without parole. The change in law recognizes that youth offenders show the most potential for rehabilitation and gives youth more incentive to behave well while incarcerated. The law returns the punishment for youth convicted of capital murder to what it was before the state instituted life without parole in 2005. However, the law is not retroactive; youth previously sentenced to life without parole will continue to serve that sentence. S.B. 839, signed into law June 19, 2009; effective September 1, 2009.
  • Washington — Education Programs Must Be Provided to Youth in Adult Jails: A new law requires that all youth held in adult jails in Washington be provided with educational programming. The legislation stemmed from a lawsuit and settlement affecting the Pierce County jail and Tacoma School District in 2009 over inadequate educational services for youth held in adult jails. The legislation mandates that the educational programs adhere to educational standards for the district, and the programs must offer credits that are transferable to community schools. The school district in which the adult jail is located must provide youth with educational programming within five days of receiving notification from the jail of the youth’s presence. The state developed regulations and a program guide written by educational professionals in order to implement the statute. S.B. 6702/Ch. 226, signed into law March 26, 2010; effective June 10, 2010.

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