Skip to main content

Justice by Geography: Do Politics Influence the Prosecution of Youth as Adults?

CJCJ’s new report finds that counties with Republican district attorneys are more likely to directly file youth in adult, criminal court.

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) analyzes the relationship between the political party affiliations of California’s district attorneys and county rates of direct file. When Proposition 21 was passed in 2000, district attorneys (DAs) were afforded sole discretion to file charges against youth directly in adult, criminal court. Does the political affiliation of a county’s DA bear any relation to the odds that a youth will be direct filed in adult court?

The report finds that:

  • A youth arrested for a felony in 2014 was 2.4 times more likely to have his or her case direct filed in a county with a Republican DA compared to a Democratic DA.
  • Republican DAs’ rates of direct file were particularly disproportionate to Democratic rates if the defendant was African American or Asian. Black youth in counties with a Republican DA were 5 times more likely to be direct filed, and Asian youth were 9.4 times more likely.
  • Yuba County (Democratic DA) had the highest rate of direct file in 2014. It reported more than one direct file for every two qualifying juvenile felony arrests, a rate 77 times higher than Los Angeles County (which had a direct file rate of 0.7 percent).

While young people were more likely to be direct filed in counties with a Republican district attorney in 2014, disparities in the use of direct file are a problem for all parties. There is a large race/ethnicity and gender divergence in use of direct file regardless of the party affiliation of the DA. Granting prosecutors the sole discretion to determine whether a youth is tried in adult court contributes to a system of extreme disparities. These disparities grow more pronounced when considering the party affiliation of the DA.

 Read the full report >>

Contact: For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview, please contact CJCJ Communications at (415) 621- 5661 x 121 or

Keywords: direct file, district attorney, gender disparities, girls, Mike Males, party affiliation, prosecutors, publication, racial disparities, report, women, youth crime

Posted in Publications, Political Landscape

Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

California Stentencing Institute screenshot

California Sentencing
Institute (CASI)

Explore how California’s 58 counties send their residents to correctional institutions with interactive maps, charts, and downloadable data.

Connect with us


Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

Join our mailing list

Get regular updates and news delivered to your inbox. We won’t share your information with anyone else.