Fourteen-year-olds who commit felonious acts are too young to be tried in California’s adult courts. The California Supreme Court confirmed this with its ruling in support of SB 1391, which expressly bans such practice.
Fearmongering led to P57
In 2016, voters passed Proposition 57 (P57), which allowed for harsh sentences for juvenile offenders. This controversial bill allowed children 13 and older to be tried in adult courts. While prosecutors wanted to keep Proposition 57 in place as voted on, the Equal Justice Initiative disagreed. The organization submitted an amicus brief in support of keeping young offenders out of adult courts.
According to the EJI, science studying teen behavior concludes that teens have not fully developed to mental maturity and can change negative behaviors as they age. Therefore, it behooves the justice system to incarcerate young convicts in the juvenile justice system with the goal of rehabilitation and keeping the public safe.
The EJI also noted that these harsh sentences primarily impacted children of color. Thus, the application of P57 was inherently biased toward this populace.
The correcting of corrections
Even though the violent crime figures among teens never rose to the frenzy that was claimed during the 1990s and 2000s, thousands of young convicts were processed through the adult criminal courts. Some got life in prison without parole, and some were sentenced to die.
The California Supreme Court took a bold step by affirming SB 1391, an amendment to P57, contending that its intent was to undo the wrong inflicted upon juvenile delinquents by putting them in adult courts. Though juvenile offenders may have committed illegal acts, there is a chance that their behaviors at such a young age are corrigible.