Keeping Juveniles Out of Adult Jails

After a 17-year-old killed himself in a state prison facility used mainly for adults, Connecticut increased the age limit for automatically trying youths in juvenile rather than adult court from 16 to 18. It is one of three states that have raised the age at which youths charged with certain crimes are automatically tried as adults to 18 and one of 10 states that have made it harder to transfer youths from juvenile to adult court since 2005. 

In the last five years, 15 states have changed state policies regarding the age of adult court jurisdiction and at least nine more states are considering reforms. The push for reforms has been supported by research showing that adolescents often lack judgment and the ability to control impulses and that these qualities typically do not mature until the early 20s.  

The policy changes and research are detailed in a new report, State Trends: Legislative Changes from 2005-2010 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System, released this week by Campaign for Youth Justice, an organization based in Washington, DC – and a Public Welfare Foundation grantee – that aims to stop youths under the age of 18 from being tried, sentenced or incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system.      

According to the report, more than half the states have no minimum age limit for prosecuting someone in adult court. As a consequence, about 250,000 youths under the age of 18 are prosecuted, sentenced or incarcerated as adults each year in the United States.

To read the full report, click here


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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