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U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) recently introduced a bicameral resolution designating October as National Youth Justice Action Month. The resolution spotlights what legislators called a broken juvenile justice model that prioritizes incarceration over rehabilitation and support.
“For too long, we have relied on an antiquated juvenile justice model that prioritizes wasteful incarceration over efficient, effective rehabilitation,” Cárdenas said. “It is unconscionable that the United States leads developed nations in the highest youth incarceration rates. We need to address the root causes of juvenile delinquency rather than make matters worse. My resolution aims to shine a light on the systemic problems in our juvenile justice system that keeps young Americans incarcerated.”
Each year, 75,000 of America’s youths are tried or sentenced as adults – most of whom are prosecuted for nonviolent offenses. Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to vote, yet in many states, children as young as 7 can be tried as adults. According to research by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, prosecuting youth in adult courts increases crime. On average, they are 3% more likely to commit future crimes than youth detained in the juvenile system, according to the CDC and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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