Testimony before the Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice

On Wednesday, April 14, Campaign For Youth Justice’s CEO Liz Ryan provided testimony before Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice.

The Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice is an ongoing statutory committee of the Nevada Legislature which meets between the biennial sessions of the Legislature and consists of three members from the Senate and three members from the Assembly. The Committee reviews and evaluates issues relating to the provision of child welfare services and juvenile justice in the state and recommends legislation concerning child welfare and juvenile justice to the Legislature.

On this occasion, the Committee heard testimony from a number of witnesses on juvenile justice issues, including the prosecution of youth as adults. In her testimony Ryan stated that,

“An overwhelming body of research shows that prosecuting youth as adults does not work. Over the past three years, we have witnessed a steady stream of research demonstrating unequivocally that trying and sentencing children in adult court does not reduce crime; in fact, it does just the opposite.”

Further, Ryan noted that,

“In light of the research, particularly the data showing that youth prosecuted in adult criminal court are much more likely to re-offend than similarly situated youth in the juvenile justice system, a number of states have begun to reexamine their states policies and several states have changed their policies.”

According to Ryan, states have undertaken or are considering undertaking a number of policy reforms in these areas:

1. Changing the age at which youth can be eligible to be considered in adult criminal court, which Nevada did in the last session;

2. Changing the types of crimes for which youth can be eligible to be considered in adult criminal court;

3. Ending the automatic prosecution of all youth at certain ages in adult criminal court, such as at age 16 or 17;

4. Narrowing the circumstances under which youth can be placed in adult jails pretrial;

5. Removing youth from adult jails and prisons pretrial and post-conviction;

6. Providing adult criminal court judges additional discretion on whether to send youth back to juvenile court rather than prosecuting youth in adult court;

7. Changing the law to disallow youth to be subsequently tried in adult criminal court if they have been tried in adult court once; and

8. Disallowing adult mandatory minimums from applying to juveniles.

A full copy of Ryan’s testimony to Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice is available online at:

http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/cfyj%20testimony%20liz%20ryan%204%2014%2010.pdf (PDF)

Further testimonies in other states here.