Don’t let the state send more kids to adult court

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Young people are still developing and when they make mistakes, they should be given opportunities for treatment, rehabilitation, and positive reinforcement. The juvenile justice system was created to protect and rehabilitate youth who have been found delinquent, creating better societal outcomes. Adult courts do not offer the interventions and rehabilitation for young people that juvenile courts do.

Yet Tennessee lawmakers are taking up a bill that would increase the number of children in adult court. As amended, SB 1159/HB 1029 would flip the current system so that all juveniles who could potentially be transferred to adult court would be charged in adult court rather than starting off in juvenile court. The bill also takes away judges’ ability to consider treatment and rehabilitation when deciding whether to try a child as a juvenile or an adult.

Juvenile court judges have specialized education and training related to youth development, brain science and other factors that should be considered when determining whether a young person should be tried in adult court, and they are best positioned to oversee hearings for youth. This bill would make it harder for young people to access the services they need.

Studies have found that the vast majority of young people in the juvenile justice system are living with mental health conditions, which would only be exacerbated in adult jails where they would be required to be isolated from the adult population and would not receive access to appropriate mental health treatments.

Adult facilities are also dangerous for youth due to risk of violence – youth held in adult jails are five times more likely to be victims of attempted sexual attacks or rape, eight times more likely to commit suicide, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, and 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon.

The impact of sending a young person to adult criminal court are irreversible. Youth sent to the adult system are almost 30% more likely to be rearrested than those prosecuted in juvenile court.

TAKE ACTION: Urge lawmakers not to expand the number of young people in adult court.

Message recipients:
State senators
State representatives

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Dear legislator:

I am writing to urge you to oppose and vote no on SB 1159/HB 1029.

Please oppose and vote no on SB 1159/HB 1029. Thank you for your consideration.


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