Washington took significant steps this year to reform the criminal justice system for children and teens convicted of crimes. Those changes take effect today and are due, in part, to the participation of incarcerated youth themselves.
One of the bills signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee revises rules that require automatically trying a minor as an adult, giving prosecutors more discretion for trying certain crimes. Other bills improve access to diversion programs, allow for the destruction of juvenile court records and change the age limit for staying in juvenile institutions. To create the new policies, state lawmakers and law enforcement leaders turned to recent research about adolescent brain development and incarcerated youth — and they listened to the voices of Washington teens serving time in juvenile institutions for serious crimes.
Several incarcerated youth wrote letters to lawmakers asking them to approve Senate Bill 6160. The bill allows minors convicted in adult court to stay in the state juvenile corrections system — Juvenile Rehabilitation — until they turn 25, rather than being transferred to a prison when they turn 21. The measure aligns with research showing that youth transferred to adult prisons are more likely to reoffend after their release than those who remain in the juvenile system.
The bill also gives more discretion to prosecutors and judges to decide when a minor must be tried as an adult for certain serious offenses or if they should stay in juvenile court.
Read the rest of the story on the governor's Medium page.