Bill to Prevent Prosecution of Children Under 12 Moves Forward

June 5, 2017

By Staff

Our sponsored bill to exclude children under age 12 from juvenile court prosecution – SB 439 authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara – passed out of the state Senate on a 24-13 vote on May 15 and now heads to the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

“All we are saying is children under 12 deserve to be treated differently,” Senator Mitchell said. “We are not denying that some children need some level of intervention. If we are going to end the cradle to prison pipeline, we have to start with our youngest Californians.” Watch Senator Mitchell speak on the Senate floor in support of SB 439.

California has no law specifying a minimum age for juvenile justice jurisdiction. This means that young children of any age can be processed in the juvenile justice system despite studies and court decisions that demonstrate the immaturity of children lessens their culpability and also makes it more difficult to meaningfully navigate the justice system processes.

Instead of relying on prosecution to address young children's misbehavior, children are better served through alternative child-serving systems and community-based responses that rely on education, mental health treatment, welfare support and other services. Formal justice system involvement – including arrest and initial processing – can lead to negative and adverse impacts on children's health and future chances of success.

SB 439 is part of an #EquityAndJustice legislative package jointly authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell with major justice reforms that put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.