Dec. 7, 2009
Is Youth Violence on the Rise? Statistics Say So.
One measure for the increase in youth violence is the number of "automatic-adult jurisdiction" cases filed. State law requires filing in adult court against juvenile defendants who are 16 and 17 years old and who have been charged with violent crimes, usually involving guns.
So far in 2009, 62 automatic adult jurisdiction cases have been filed by the PAO, more than double the number that were filed in 2008. Last week, the PAO filed armed robbery charges against 17-year-old Dominique Jackson. Just two months before the armed robbery, Jackson stood before the Juvenile Court, convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm. He was given a deferred disposition, meaning he would have no conviction on his record, in return for promising to go to school, keep curfew, and stay out of trouble for nine months. He received no detention time, nor was he required to perform any community service. The PAO opposed the deferred disposition and asked for jail time, but the court denied the PAO's request. Although virtually nothing happened in Juvenile Court when the defendant carried a gun, he now faces a sentence of 7 ½ - 8 ½ years in adult prison because this time he used the gun he carried in his pocket.
This is yet another example of our failure to send the right message to kids about the consequences of carrying guns. The state juvenile sentencing laws need to be changed so that the first time a juvenile is convicted for illegal gun possession, the juvenile goes to a state Juvenile Rehabilitation Act (JRA) facility like Echo Glen for 15 to 36 weeks. Under present law, juveniles are not sent to JRA until their fifth conviction for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, sending a misleading message of tolerance for gun crimes.
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