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Co-sponsored Legislation

CJCJ is co-sponsoring Senate Bill (SB) 439, a bill that will establish a minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court at age 12. As part of the Equity and Justice 2018 bill package, SB 439 will lessen the impact of the juvenile justice system on young Californians and enable families, communities, and child-serving systems to provide young people with the care and support they need.

SB 439: End the Prosecution of Children Under 12

California has no minimum age for juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction, meaning that children of any age can be prosecuted. Each year in California, hundreds of children under 12 are referred to the juvenile justice system for relatively minor offenses. These include status offenses, such as curfew violations; misdemeanor offenses, such as petty theft; and felonies, which largely consist of assault and battery, an offense that encompasses schoolyard fights.  

Research shows that contact with the juvenile justice system can have lasting, negative psychological and health impacts on children. Many young children who experience early justice system contact have histories of trauma, learning problems, or other underlying and unaddressed behavioral and environmental needs. These needs are better addressed through alternatives to the justice system and should be provided in the context of family and community.

#EquityAndJustice

Prosecuting young children in juvenile court disregards research on the inherent harms of early justice system involvement and places California out of step with national standards and international norms. In fact, theUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that all nations must establish a minimum age for their justice systems, and that the minimum should be at least 12 years old. 

SB 439 recognizes the unique needs of children under 12 and will allow California to align its treatment of young children with international standards. 

Authors: Senator Holly Mitchell and Senator Ricardo Lara

Co-sponsors: 

  • Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
  • Children’s Defense Fund – California
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • W. Haywood Burns Institute
  • Youth Justice Coalition – Los Angeles
  • Anti-Recidivism Coalition

Status: Assembly Appropriations Committee

Resources: 

SB 439 pathway to age-appropriate responses

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