Children Tried as Adults: Reducing the Number of Children Moved to Adult Court
Florida currently leads the nation in the number of youth transferred to adult courts (a process known as “direct file”). Currently, Florida prosecutors have sole discretion on whether a child is charged as a juvenile or charged as an adult. The authorization of direct file into an adult court with no hearing, due process, oversight or input from a judge creates pressure on children to accept guilty pleas just to avoid the danger of adult transfer.
Most children tried as adults in Florida are charged with nonviolent felony offenses, primarily property and drug crimes or misdemeanors. More than 70 percent of children convicted in adult courts are sentenced to probation, calling into question whether a more serious adult court transfer was necessary in the first place.
Transferring youth to adult courts has not been proven to deter crime and in fact, children in adult facilities do not receive the education, rehabilitative services and treatment they need to ensure they do not re-offend as adults. Youth sent to the adult criminal justice system were 34 percent more likely to be re-arrested for felonies than youth who had been retained in the juvenile justice system.
- Reduce the number of children transferred to adult court: Amend the practice of giving state attorneys the sole discretion on whether to try a child as an adult.
- Provide a fair review of a child’s case: Elevate judicial review of children who are transferred to adult court.
- The Worst State for Kids Up Against the Law—The Marshall Project Journal
Discusses Florida’s overuse of direct file and the resulting shift in the emphasis of the juvenile system from rehabilitation to punishment.
- Florida’s Direct File Law: How State Attorneys Hold Too Much Power—University of Miami Law Review
Argues that direct file, which accounts for about 98 percent of juvenile transfers to adult court, is in opposition to the intent of both the U.S Supreme Court and international law.
- Branded for Life: Florida’s Prosecution of Children as Adults under its “Direct File” Statute—Human Rights Watch
A non-profit report that finds direct file impacts everything from job opportunity to voting eligibility, leads to lifelong consequences for minors and does not effectively serve public safety.
- Children Tried As Adults in Florida. A Common Sense Approach to Ensure Fairness and Account Accountability—The James Madison Institute
Issue Commentary on the current prosecution of juveniles and the disparities regarding how children’s cases are handled. The article proposes to restore judicial waivers for determining whether a child should be tried as an adult.
- No Place for A Child: Direct File of Juveniles Comes at a High Cost; Time to Fix Statutes—The James Madison Institute
Policy Brief on the current problems associated with the use of Direct File, highlighting the negative consequences it has created for children. The article provides alternative mechanisms and statutes that should be addressed and used.
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