DC Attorney General Karl Racine said on Wednesday he introduced a bill that would modernize the process for charging young individuals as adults, by bringing more fairness to the system.
Under the “Redefinition of Child Amendment Act,” accused children would have their cases start in family court so that they can receive rehabilitation services, which reduces the possibility of them committing another crime in the future.
If a judge concludes that a child cannot be successfully rehabilitated within the juvenile system and should be transferred for the public’s safety, then the case would be moved to an adult court.
In addition to providing benefits for teens, the changes would improve public safety, according to Racine, who said he and his team have worked to improve the District’s juvenile justice system through children-centered bold reforms since he took office as attorney general.
We have the chance to make a change to District law that will make a big difference in the lives of children and families across the District while improving public safety and increasing fairness.
I hope the DC Council quickly passes our bill.
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) June 30, 2021
“When young people cause harm, we can hold them accountable for their actions, and, importantly, provide them with the support they need to make better decisions in the future,” Racine said in a release. “This fulsome approach enhances public safety by reducing recidivism. This needed legislation would bring our justice system into alignment with long established scientific research that tell us the brain is not fully developed at ages 16 and 17, and that young people, even those who commit serious crimes, can learn and evolve into upstanding and valuable members of our community.”
He added that the bill would also reduce victimization, increase fairness, “and make a big difference in the lives of children.”
Currently, District law allows the prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults when they are charged with certain crimes, and this decision cannot be overruled.
“This change through legislation would modernize the definition of ‘child’ to reflect modern science and commonsense: children are different than adults, and the decision to treat a child as an adult must be made carefully, based on the facts of the case and the comprehensive review of the rehabilitative prospects of the child,” explained a statement from Racine’s office.