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Improved justice for juveniles facing criminal charges in state

It now seems incredible but up until 2007 Connecticut treated 16 and 17 year-olds as adults for purposes of criminal law prosecutions and punishment. It was one of only three states in the country that did that. By having minors prosecuted as adults on criminal charges, Connecticut had a system that got an earlier jump in educating our youth about the culture of crime.

When juveniles are put into the adult criminal justice system, the results inevitably lead to them receiving intensive experience, contact and indoctrination into the ways and culture of crime. We were training our youth that instead of merely being wayward youngsters they could join a higher category of criminal participation, courtesy of the state government. Crime continued to rise among that age category.

A new law was passed in 2007 that made individuals under 18 juveniles and not adults for purposes of the criminal justice system. This opened the way to increased training, rehabilitation and alternative programs designed to integrate and educate our youngsters into productive lifestyles. The state discovered that many teens were not completely formulated and could be receptive to new opportunities and new positive perspectives of thinking.

Recent respected reports verify that juvenile crime can be reduced and redirected through aggressive remedial programs that emphasize education rather than punishment. Additionally, treating so-called status crimes such as truancy in Connecticut as social violations needing family support therapies reduced the court burdens and increased the prospects for reintegration into functional family life. The same unnecessary overpopulation of the court systems was reduced by not prosecuting high school students for behavior that could be treated as noncriminal.

Connecticut is now one of the states leading the way toward an enlightened jurisprudence for young people under 18 who face criminal charges. The temptation for criminal defense attorneys and others in the criminal justice or related professions is to see some of that wise policy transferred over to the adult penal system. The lessons learned support the idea that remedial programs can work for many adults who are not yet cultured in deep patterns of criminality. The present system mixes younger adults and non-violent offenders with the most experienced and hardened prisoners. In that sense, many critics say that it promotes rather than prevents crime.

Source: Hartford Courant, State has wised up on juvenile justice, No author, Dec. 26, 2013

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