Nonpartisan Pros & Cons of
Should the California juvenile justice system and California criminal laws be changed to increase punishment for certain crimes and increase the number of juveniles that can be prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as adults?
Most juvenile criminal cases are currently handled by the juvenile justice system. With approval from the juvenile justice system, some serious offenders may be tried as adults. However, current law prohibits juveniles from being housed with adult offenders, so most juveniles convicted in adult court are placed in a juvenile facility until they reach age 18.
There are approximately 100,000 juvenile offenders annually on probation in California. The majority of them are on formal probation, which requires that they appear before the court to resolve their cases. For most informal probation cases, no court hearing is held because the probation department can directly impose needed sanctions. After completion of informal probation, there is no record of the juvenile crime.
Juvenile criminal records are presently kept confidential, with some exceptions for juveniles convicted of felonies or charged with serious felonies. Current law regarding gang-related crime allows for sentencing up to three years.
Proposition 21 would require that serious juvenile offenders be treated more as adult offenders, with changes in which courts would try their cases, where they are housed, and the type of probation and confidentiality available to them. Additionally, it would increase the punishment for certain adult felonies and include them as "strikes" under the Three Strikes law.
Proposition 21 would:
· require adult trials for juveniles 14 years or older charged with specified offenses
· eliminate informal probation, and further limit confidentiality for juveniles who are charged with or convicted of specified felonies
· require that certain juvenile offenders be held in local or state correctional facilities rather than juvenile facilities
· designate additional crimes as violent and serious, thereby making offenders subject to longer sentences
· further increase punishment for gang-related offenses, and allow for the death penalty for gang-related murder
· provide indeterminate life sentences for home-invasion robbery, carjacking, witness intimidation and drive-by shootings
· authorize wiretapping for gang activities, and require persons convicted of gang-related crimes to register with law enforcement
According to the Legislative Analyst, Proposition 21 would result in ongoing state costs of more than $330 million annually, due mostly to higher costs in the adult court and prison system. The state would also incur one-time costs of about $750 million for construction of additional incarceration facilities.
Potential ongoing costs to local governments are estimated to be between $20 million and more than $100 million annually, with potential one-time local costs ranging from $200 to $300 million. The initiative does not provide for resources to pay these costs.
· The "three strikes" law has contributed to a decline in adult crime, while juvenile crime continues to be serious and needs to be addressed.
· Law enforcement must have more power in prosecuting and convicting juvenile offenders for serious crimes and in dealing with gang members.
· Department of Justice statistics show that serious juvenile crime has steadily declined in recent years, and California already has tough laws against gangs and youth crime.
· Proposition 21 carries a high price tag; more jails and prisons will need to be built, taking money away from other government services and current efforts to prevent violence.