The Youth Law Center works to prevent or reduce the handling of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. Adult court prosecution fails to recognize and account for the fact that juveniles are less mature, more impulsive, and more likely to be influenced by negative envrionmental influences than adults, and fails to consider the likelihood that young people will change dramatically as they mature. Because it is premised on the idea of punishment and imprisonment, adult court handling also interposes barriers to providing services and support that would enable young people to move successfully forward in their lives.
Our work has been informed by extensive litigation in the early years of YLC involving punitive, abusive conditions and even deaths that occurred when juveniles were held in adult jails. In recent years YLC has engaged in a series of strategies aimed at preventing and reducing adult court handling, reducing extreme sentences, and addressing abusive conditions in adult facilities.
- Working against extreme sentencing of juveniles, including working with other advocates as amicus curiae in People v. Caballero, resulting in a California Supreme Court holding that juveniles must be given review with an opportunity for release withing their life expectancy;
- Sponsoring successful legislation, AB 945 (Nunez), which makes it more difficult to move juveniles being tried in criminal court to adult jails;
- Sponsoring SB 1223 (Kuehl), which would have provided for sentencing review after juveniles tried as adults served 10 years of their sentence or reached age 25;
- Opposing Proposition 21 and other legislation that make it easier to try juveniles as adults;
- Filing Stauring v. Baca to protect the rights of a chaplain to speak out against inhumane conditions in the Los Angeles County jail.