16, 1999 10:04 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Grace Reef, 202-662-3558 Charles Fulwood 202-662-3613
Defense Fund Opposes Hyde/McCollum Juvenile Crime Bill
- June 16 - The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) today urged Members of the U.S.
House of Representatives to oppose the new Hyde/McCollum juvenile crime bill and
to adopt prevention programs to keep children safe and out of trouble.
Under the pending juvenile crime bill in the House, more children would be tried
as adults, which would place children at risk of assault and abuse in adult jails.
The Hyde/McCollum amendment adopted today gives federal prosecutors rather than
judges the discretion to try children as adults, lowers the age to 13 in some
cases in which children can be tried as adults in the federal system, and broadens
the scope of federal crimes for which juveniles can be tried as adults. More children
would be placed in adult jails with no prohibition on contact with adults. These
children could even be placed in the same jail cell as an adult.
"With as much progress as we made on keeping children separate from adults in
the Senate passed bill, it is simply incredible that the House would choose to
now turn the clock back 25 years to a time when children routinely were housed
with adults in adult jails," said Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright
Edelman. "Study after study has shown the dangers children face in adult jails.
Children are eight times more likely to commit suicide, five times more likely
to be sexually assaulted, and twice as likely to be assaulted by staff in adult
jails than in juvenile facilities."
The Hyde/McCollum bill would impose new mandatory minimum sentences for children
and allow for broad dissemination of juvenile records. "Mandatory minimums are
a mistake for children. For years, the juvenile justice system has been geared
toward rehabilitating youth, but mandatory minimum sentences go in the opposite
direction," said Edelman.
"I am also troubled by provisions in this legislation that would allow juvenile
records to be shared with law enforcement, courts, the FBI, and schools, including
schools in which the child is seeking to enroll. Broad dissemination of these
records would have devastating consequences for the future employment and education
of many children. The majority appears to want to write-off large numbers of children.
But, two-thirds of those who commit a first offense, never commit another one.
Have we slipped back so far as a society that we are beyond attempting to rehabilitate
"This legislation is about politics, not policy. Prevention programs work and
are cost effective. But, there is little in this bill in the way of prevention.
Given the recent tragedies in Colorado, Georgia, Arkansas, and other states, it
is unfortunate that the House decided not to focus on prevention programs to ensure
that our schools and communities are safe and that at-risk children have mentors
in the community to follow. Instead, the House focused on providing a small percentage
of children who come into contact with the law with new adult mentors * adult
inmates at federal penitentiaries."
"We hope to work with the members of the conference committee to restore balance
to our nation's approach to working with troubled youth," said Edelman.
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