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Setting a Minimum Age for Juvenile Court Prosecution

In 2015, 874 referrals were made in California to prosecute children under 12, including one five-year-old and 13 seven-year-olds. Ultimately, approximately 250 youth under age 12 were prosecuted. Although prosecuting youth so young is increasingly rare in California, our state has no law specifying a minimum age for juvenile justice jurisdiction. This means that young children of any age can be processed in the juvenile justice system despite studies and court decisions that demonstrate the immaturity of children lessens their culpability and also makes it more difficult to meaningfully navigate the justice system processes, including working with their own attorneys.

Research shows that contact with the juvenile justice system can have lasting and negative psychological and health impacts on anyone – but can be especially traumatic for a child. Senate Bill 439, by Senator Mitchell, would exclude children 11 years old and younger from juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction. Additionally, this bill will promote alternatives outside of the juvenile justice system – such as through child welfare, education, health care or human services. Learn more

Do your part to level the playing field for California’s children by urging your representative to vote yes on SB 439.  Taking action is simple. Just fill out your information below and personalize the letter on the right.


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