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CFYJ Reports

Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System

By: Liz Ryan

youth in adult criminal justice systemThis policy brief showcases the latest data about youth in the adult criminal justice system, key arguments for reform and recommendations for change.

Using Graham v. Florida to Challenge Juvenile Transfer Laws

By: By Neelum Arya

Using Graham v. Florida to Challenge Juvenile Transfer Laws

In October, 2011, CFYJ released Using Graham v. Florida to Challenge Juvenile Transfer Laws, authored by Neelum Arya, Research and Policy Director at the Campaign for Youth Justice. The article suggests that the recent Supreme Court opinion in Graham v. Florida abolishing life without parole sentences for juveniles (JLWOP) convicted of nonhomicide crimes, may be used to challenge juvenile transfer laws. Part I provides a description and analysis of the Graham opinion and reviews the Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence through to their recent ruling declaring JLWOP sentences for nonhomicide crimes unconstitutional. In Part II, Arya argues that youth have a right to rehabilitation found under the state's police power. In addition, Graham discusses three types of difficulties that adult decisionmakers in the criminal justice system have with respect to youth that may be useful to challenge transfer laws. First, judges and experts have problems evaluating the culpability and maturity of youth. Second, adult perceptions of youth are biased by the severity and manner in which the crimes were conducted. Third, counsel have difficulty representing youth in the adult system. Arya suggests these factors apply to all youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system, regardless of offense charged or sentence imposed. Finally, in Part III, Arya encourages lawyers to revisit these prior challenges in both individual cases and as part of impact litigation strategies to declare all transfer statutes, or portions of them, unconstitutional.

State Trends

By: By Neelum Arya

New Report Highlights State Legislative Changes and Reform Efforts over the Last Five Years

statetrendsthumbIn April, 2011, CFYJ released State Trends: Legislative Changes from 2005 to 2010 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System, authored by Neelum Arya, Research and Policy Director, which provides state policymakers, the media, the public, and advocates with the latest information about youth in the adult justice system. The first half of the report explains the dangers to youth, public safety, and the overall prosperity of our economy and future generations. The second half of the report examines 27 positive pieces of legislation enacted in 15 states during the last 5 years, as well as highlights active reform efforts underway in four categories:

  • Trend 1: Four states (Colorado, Maine, Virginia and Pennsylvania) have passed laws limiting the ability to house youth in adult jails and prisons.
  • Trend 2: Three states (Connecticut, Illinois and Mississippi) have expanded their juvenile court jurisdiction so that older youth who previously would be automatically tried as adults are not prosecuted in adult criminal court.
  • Trend 3: Ten states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington) have changed their transfer laws making it more likely that youth will stay in the juvenile justice system.
  • Trend 4: Four states (Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Washington) have changed their mandatory minimum sentencing laws to take into account the developmental differences between youth and adults.

This report arrives at a moment when there is a real opportunity for reform. States are recognizing that youth have developmental differences from adults as well as a great potential for rehabilitation, both of which should be taken into account in sentencing.

State Trends: Updates from the 2013-2014 Legislative Session

By: By Neelum Arya

State Trends: Updates from the 2013-2014 Legislative Session

This report takes a look at states that have, and are taking steps to remove children from the adult criminal justice system.

State Trends documents the continuation of four trends in justice reform efforts across the country to roll back transfer laws in the country, from arrest through sentencing. Building on efforts from the last decade, states continue to amend and eliminate harmful statutes and policies created in the 1990s that placed tens of thousands of youth in the adult criminal justice system. In 2014, advocacy, research, operative Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, and fiscal analysis assisted in the introduction of bills in nine states to remove youth from the adult criminal justice system and give youth an opportunity at more rehabilitative services.

"Reform efforts strengthened tremendously during the 2013-2014 legislative sessions with nine states--Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Hawaii, changing statutes and examining policies to allow more youth to stay in the juvenile justice system," said Marcy Mistrett, CEO of CFYJ. "The trend is continuing and the message is resonating across the country that kids need to be treated like kids."

Since CFYJ's inception, over half of the states have enacted legislation that echo what public polls, brain science, and even the Supreme Court have recognized: kids are different.

"Youth who commit offenses have a better chance of rehabilitation, and in most cases, are better served in the juvenile justice system rather than the adult criminal justice system," said Carmen Daugherty, CFYJ Policy Director and author of the report. "The state victories reported are a testament to families, advocates, and youth demanding more from their policy makers, and policy makers demanding more accountability from the state courts and agencies responsible for handling youth justice issues."

America's Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice

By: Neelum Arya, Francisco Villarruel, Cassandra Villanueva, and Ian Augarten

americas invisible childrenCFYJ and NCLR have just released the latest volume in the Race and Ethnicity Series, focusing on Latino youth in the justice system. In addition to providing the latest facts about Latino youth in the U.S. justice system, the report highlights promising solutions and policy recommendations to reduce the disparities.


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