By the LA County Public Defender’s Office
Today [Feb. 25] the California Supreme Court took a revolutionary step to treat our justice-involved children like children. By upholding SB1391, which bars transfers of children under 16 from being transferred from juvenile court to adult court, the Supreme Court has validated the science that tells us that children can be impulsive and often do not understand the long-term consequences of their actions.
The decision confirms that sending 14 and 15-year-old children to adult court fails to recognize the reality of the development of these youngsters. By keeping these children in juvenile court, we are able to best rehabilitate them into productive citizens who will be far less likely to commit crimes than they would be if jailed with adults. O.G. v. the Superior Court of Ventura County
For years youth advocates have fought for the most vulnerable in the criminal legal system. We argued relentlessly that children should not be judged or treated with the same standards as adults. We used science in courts across California to confirm that a child’s brain at 14,15,16,17,18 is not the same as an adult at 25, but often our pleas fell on deaf ears.
In 2016, California Voters enacting Proposition 57, and youth advocates felt reassurance the tide was turning and science was winning. In 2018, our elected leaders through SB1391 took the righteous step by assuring that our children under 16 were not tried as adults.
Today [Feb. 25] the highest court in California has stated without equivocation that children 16 and under should be treated as children, not adults. In 1961, the California Legislature enacted protections for children 16 and under to be judged by a juvenile court. It took 60 years to get us back to treating children like children.
Thank you to the voters, the Legislature, and our Supreme Court for protecting our children.