Don't automatically try juveniles as adults

Don’t automatically try juveniles as adults by John Maki

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In Illinois’ statehouse, legislators are debating a proposal that would give judges the power to determine whether kids should be tried in juvenile or criminal court, regardless of the crime they are accused of committing. This would change Illinois’ current law that empowers prosecutors to automatically transfer kids they charge with certain violent offenses to adult court, without the possibility of judicial review.

As most states in the country have similar laws that make it easier to try kids as if they were adults, this proposal deserves national attention, as it represents good policy and needed change.

While our justice system must be able to handle the small number of young people who commit violent offenses, the only purpose that laws such as automatic transfer serve is to undermine the possibility of principled discretion in cases in which it is most required.