Young people are still developing and when they make mistakes, they should be given opportunities for treatment, rehabilitation, and positive reinforcement. The juvenile justice system was created to protect and rehabilitate youth who have been found delinquent, creating better societal outcomes. Adult courts do not offer the interventions and rehabilitation for young people that juvenile courts do.
Yet Tennessee lawmakers are taking up a bill that would increase the number of children in adult court. As amended, SB 1159/HB 1029 would flip the current system so that all juveniles who could potentially be transferred to adult court would be charged in adult court rather than starting off in juvenile court. The bill also takes away judges’ ability to consider treatment and rehabilitation when deciding whether to try a child as a juvenile or an adult.
Juvenile court judges have specialized education and training related to youth development, brain science and other factors that should be considered when determining whether a young person should be tried in adult court, and they are best positioned to oversee hearings for youth. This bill would make it harder for young people to access the services they need.