By Michael Apfel
OLYMPIA, WA – Daniel Landsman, Deputy Director of the criminal justice reform organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums, criticized the use of juvenile adjudications this week following the passing of a Washington state bill changing juvenile sentencing policy.
The bill, passed by the Washington House of Representatives, ends the use of juvenile adjudications as a means to automatically enhance a person’s sentence as they enter the adult criminal system, though judges could still consider juvenile history in adult sentences.
“By using juvenile adjudications to automatically enhance sentences in adult courts, Washington essentially punishes people twice for mistakes they made as kids,” Landsman said. “There is a separate system of justice for children for a reason – kids are different. Washington’s law ignores that science and the result has hurt public safety and disproportionately harmed communities of color.”
FAMM was established in 1991 to address mandatory minimum sentencing laws, as well as to broadly advocate for criminal justice reform.
The majority of states do not factor juvenile convictions in adult sentencing, though Washington is in the small minority of states that continues this practice. Critics of these laws point out the disproportionate impact it has on people of color, particularly Black and Indigenous people.
Advocacy groups like the ACLU have long advocated for policies reforming juvenile criminal justice and related issues, preventing people from being unfairly punished for previous crimes in their adulthood.
“The ACLU is committed to challenging the criminalization and incarceration of young people—particularly youth from disenfranchised communities,” the ACLU said in a statement, adding, “We are promoting positive approaches to school discipline and seeking to dismantle the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’”
The ACLU said, “We are working to change laws and policies so that states and local jurisdictions use youth jails and prisons sparingly and instead provide effective community-based services and support to system-involved young people and their families. ”