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UT Professor Calls for Lawmakers to Step-Up Efforts to Reduce the Transfer of Young Children to Adult Criminal Court

Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Florida prompts New York Times letter to the editor by UT Professor Michele Deitch

Deitch’s Report Titled “From Time-Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System,” was first-ever comprehensive policy study on trying and sentencing children as adults

 AUSTIN, Texas, May 19, 2010 -- In light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Florida, University of Texas at Austin professor Michele Deitch, author of “From Time-Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System,” calls on Congress and state policymakers in a New York Times letter to the editor “The Young Are Different, Justices Rule,” to reconsider laws that allow young children to be transferred to criminal court for their offenses.

“As the report I co-authored last year showed, 27 states allow children age 12 and under to be tried as adults,” said Deitch. “In adult court, these children face very harsh sentences, up to and including life without parole.”

According to Deitch, in many cases these sentences are mandatory, and the judge cannot consider the defendants’ youth.

“Even more troubling, the majority of these children are charged with nonviolent property and public order offenses, not capital murder and other horrific crimes,” said Deitch.

Deitch says that real change in this arena will begin with efforts to reduce the transfer of children to adult court.

The report “From Time-Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System,” provides a comprehensive look at how the nation treats pre-adolescent children (primarily those age 12 and under) who commit serious crimes. The report analyzes the available data with regard to the transfer of young children to adult criminal court, documents the extremely harsh and tragic consequences that follow when young children go into the adult criminal justice system, profiles practices in states with particularly severe outcomes for these young children, looks at international practices and offers policy recommendations.

The report finds that more than half the states permit children age 12 and under to be treated as adults for criminal justice purposes. In 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, children as young as 7 can be prosecuted and tried in adult court where they would be subject to harsh adult sanctions, including long prison terms, mandatory sentences and placement in adult prisons. *

 Four states stand out as providing the worst possible outcomes for pre-adolescent offenders, given the combination of transfer policies and adult sentencing laws and practices in those states:  Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

For more information on the report including key findings, press coverage, and a PDF download of the report, visit: http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/news/story/856