Is a teenager capable of making adult decisions? That depends on the teenager. Unfortunately,Virginia doesn’t see it that way. Juveniles 14 and older who are accused of murder or aggravated wounding are automatically tried in adult court in the commonwealth. They also can be tried in adult court for other crimes at the request of a prosecutor.

Should a minor decide to have an abortion, however, she first must receive her parent’s consent. Minors also are forbidden to buy alcohol or tobacco, can’t vote, and face a variety of other restrictions on the premise that they lack the mature judgment required to make such choices.

A new report by the Legal Aid Justice Center takes issue with Virginia’s practice of treating teens as adults in criminal trials — a practice it terms “unfair, unsafe, and ineffective.” It is also, as noted above, inconsistent with Virginia’s treatment of juveniles in nearly every other realm of public policy.

The state crime commission is studying legislation that would permit juveniles to challenge prosecutors’ requested transfers of cases to adult court. That’s a start. But state leaders need to do much more. They should start by launching a conversation about the line separating adolescence from adulthood, and what justification there could be for allowing that line to jump around.


One response to “JUVENILE JUSTICE: Drawing Lines

  1. Judicial oppression and irresponsibility have compelled me to withstand the pressure and force with a wide variety of experiences, experiences that a just society wouldn’t compel a child to endure. Experiences that traversed through the cities of despair, hopelessness and loneliness, experiences that have relentlessly made competent attempts at trying to break, corrupt and destroy me.
    Though for the grace of God my family has stood firm by my side for the last almost 15 years, for their support has assisted in constructing a formidable castle upon the field of my resolve, a castle with every brick made of hope, love and truth, friendship, honor, duty, respect and insight.
    A castle with a podium perched high upon a platform, permitting me to yield in great detail and at the top of my lungs “WE MUST UNITE AGAINST THE LAWS THAT ARE DISREGARDING OUR CHILDREN”!!!
    Today the principles that construct my castle inform me that my shoulders no longer belong to me, that my power no longer belongs to me, that my experiences and insight no longer belong to me, they belong to the world, they belong to the people, they belong to Juvenile delinquents, their friends and family, they belong to our cause, they belong to you!

    Dante D. Cottingham 259241
    Green Bay Correctional Institute
    P.O. Box 19033
    Green Bay, WI

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