We covered an essential story about new juvenile justice legislation signed into law last month. In the 11th hour of Governor Jerry Brown’s fourth term he signed Senate Bill 439 and Senate Bill 1391 into law, both measures will go into effect across the state next year. SB 439 establishes 12 years as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court, but a dispensation will be made for offenses such as murder or rape. SB 1391 makes it unlawful to try youths under the age of 16 as an adult.
While the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is busy coming up with a plan for serving children under age 12 who find themselves in trouble, the committee is hopeful that they can take an even more progressive step. Board members are considering banning many 12- and 13-year-old youths from juvenile delinquency court, The Chronicle for Social Change reports. The proposal is welcome news by juvenile justice advocates.
“L.A. County can lead the state of California further to ensure that children aren’t negatively impacted by the effects of arrest and incarceration on youth,” said Maria Brenes, executive director of the Boyle Heights-based nonprofit Inner City Struggle. “The impact of system involvement are dismal for our children. Youth are 39 percentage points less likely to finish public school than their peers after experiencing incarceration or detention.”
Implementing Juvenile Justice Reforms
A board motion, titled Setting a Minimum Age for Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Justice System, points out that there were just over 100 12-year olds and just over 350 13 year-olds arrested in the County last year. Supervisors Hilda L. Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas write that SB 439 sets a floor, and they MOVE that the Board of Supervisors direct the Office of Diversion and Reentry’s (ODR’s) division on Youth Diversion and Development to report back in writing in 60 days with a status report and in 120 days with a comprehensive plan (Plan) to divert younger youth from juvenile court jurisdiction and detention by:
A. Authorizing the Director of ODR, or his designee, to hire a consultant with relevant expertise to support ODR in the development of the Plan.
B. Ensuring the Plan does the following:
- Build on the County’s current youth diversion and development efforts;
- At a minimum, comply with the recently passed Senate Bill 439;
- Include as a first priority a specific plan for the pending or active cases, over which the Juvenile Court is expected to lose jurisdiction in January 2019;
- Identify holistic programming and services for youth and families based on best practices, focused on positive youth development, that may be appropriate for younger youth;
- Consistent with the County’s current youth diversion plan, utilize “counsel and release” as the default in the vast majority of these cases and graduated responses thereafter, with Dependency Court jurisdiction to be a last resort; and
- Include recommendations regarding the minimum age for arrest and confinement of youth for Los Angeles County, including expanding on the requirements set by SB 439, based on a review of best practices, and relevant research.
The supervisors argue that, “the County has an opportunity, based on best practices and the efforts on youth development and diversion, along with the dual-status work it has already begun, to provide leadership to other counties across the State, and to reduce disparities in outcomes for young people based on geographical location, and racial and ethnic identity.”
Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney
At The Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in advocating for the families whose children find themselves facing legal difficulty. What sets Attorney Walsh apart from other juvenile justice lawyers is the fact that she is familiar with both sides of the courtroom, having dealt with thousands of criminal and juvenile cases as a former prosecutor. She will use her experience to serve your family and help bring about the best possible outcome; please contact us today for a free consultation if your son or daughter requires assistance.