Despite the existence of minimum age laws for juvenile justice jurisdiction in 18 US states, California has no explicit law that protects children (i.e. youth less than 12 years old) from being processed in the juvenile justice system. In the absence of a minimum age law, California lags behind other states and international practice and standards. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
In this policy brief, academics across the University of California campuses examine current evidence, theory, and policy related to the minimum age of juvenile justice jurisdiction.
Existing evidence suggests that children lack the cognitive maturity to comprehend or benefit from formal juvenile justice processing, and diverting children from the system altogether is likely to be more beneficial for the child and for public safety.
Based on current evidence and theory, the authors argue that minimum age legislation that protects children from contact with the juvenile justice system and treats them as children in need of services and support, rather than as delinquents or criminals, is an important policy goal for California and for other national and international jurisdictions lacking a minimum age law.
California has no law specifying a minimum age for juvenile justice jurisdiction, meaning that young children of any age can be processed in the juvenile justice system. This policy brief provides a rationale for a minimum age law in California and other states and jurisdictions without one.
This work was funded by a seed grant from the UC Criminal Justice & Health Consortium and by a UCLA Transdisciplinary Seed Grant to the first and second author. Dr Barnert was supported by a grant from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR000124) and the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or the official position of the affiliated institutions.
S. Barnert, E., S. Abrams, L., Maxson, C., Gase, L., Soung, P., Carroll, P. and Bath, E. (2017), "Setting a minimum age for juvenile justice jurisdiction in California", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 49-56. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-07-2016-0030
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