Juvenile Injustice Bill HR 2037 a danger to children

From The Children's Defense Fund

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Subcommittee on Crime Chairman Bill McCollum (R-FL) have introduced a new juvenile justice bill, H.R. 2037, which has been considered on the House floor. This new juvenile "injustice" bill presents dangers to children by:

H.R. 2037 allows federal prosecutors rather than judges the discretion to try children as adults, lowers the age to 13 in some cases at which children can be tried as adults in the federal system, and broadens the scope of federal crimes for which juveniles can be tried as adults. This provision would mean that more children would be placed in adult jails, and children could be placed in the same jail cells with adults. This places children at serious risk of abuse and assault, and flies in the face of current studies which indicate that trying children as adults increases rather than decreases youth crime.

H.R. 2037 allows children to come into contact with adults in adult jails in the federal system. Children as young as 13 years old would be allowed to be in the same jail cells with adults. Allowing contact between juveniles and adults in adult jails would place children at risk of assault and abuse, as children are eight times more likely to commit suicide, five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, and twice as likely to be assaulted by staff in adult jails than in juvenile facilities.

H.R. 2037 imposes new mandatory minimum sentences for children who are convicted of certain offenses. These new draconian mandatory minimums would likely impose harsher penalties on youthful offenders than adult criminals guilty of the same offenses. For example, any juvenile who discharges a firearm in a school zone would get a minimum 10-year sentence. An adult charged with the same offense would not be subject to the same mandatory penalty.

H.R. 2037 requires juvenile records of juveniles who are convicted of felonies in the federal system to be maintained in the same manner as adult records. Also, H.R. 2037 requires that all juvenile records be available for background checks with no protections to assure that the records would not be made widely available. Under H.R. 2037, juveniles' records could be shared with law enforcement, courts, the FBI, and schools, including schools in which the child is seeking to enroll. Opening juvenile records and allowing for broad dissemination of these records would have devastating consequences for the future employment and education of many children.

The Children's Defense Fund
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Washington, DC 20001
(202) 628-8787
Web: www.childrensdefense.org
E-mail: cdfinfo@childrensdefense.org