It has been five years since the Connecticut legislature added 17-year-old criminal defendants to the state’s juvenile court system. When the reform was first enacted, many feared that the change would overwhelm the juvenile courts and have virtually no effect on the likelihood of juveniles returning to criminal activity in the future. While the doomsday predictions have largely proven to be inaccurate, there is still concern among law enforcement and prosecutors that restrictions on detaining juvenile suspects and transfers to adult court have made their jobs more difficult and placed the public at risk.
The debate was reignited by Governor Dannel Malloy’s continued efforts to create an extension of the juvenile court system that would be used for most defendants up to 20 years old. For the last two years, Governor Malloy has touted his “Second Chance Society” initiatives, citing emerging research on brain development in adolescents and young adults.
A Wave of Teen Crime
In recent months, there has been a disturbingly large number of high-profile juvenile crimes committed across Connecticut. Teens have been caught stealing cars, leading police on high-speed chases, and causing several deaths. Prominent law enforcement officials claim that their hands are effectively tied when it comes to dealing with teens who commit such crimes, and the teens know it.
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane penned an opinion piece in the Hartford Courant in which he recounted the words of a 16-year-old who was “arrested after a dramatic and dangerous attempt to flee from police in a stolen car.” The juvenile jeered the arresting officers for their lack of driving skills but went on to acknowledge all the police could do is take him to a juvenile detention center. “I can get some ice cream, chips, and candy, watch some movies, and chill with my boys,” the teen added. “The laws don’t do nothing to us. It doesn’t matter.”
Kane used this example to demonstrate his belief that it has become virtually impossible to impose meaningful consequences on juvenile offenders. He strongly expressed his opposition to the Governor’s plan to raise the age of full criminal responsibility to 21.
Anecdotes Do Not Tell the Whole Story
Reform advocates have been quick to point out that juvenile crime numbers have fluctuated a great deal in the last few years. They do not deny the recent spate of serious crimes but believe that it is too soon to know for sure how well the reforms are working. Many also maintain that Connecticut cannot “incarcerate [itself] out of problems” and that prison alternatives are still woefully underfunded. Yet, they say that keeping older teens in juvenile court has pushed many of them away from the adult criminal system rather than into it.
Call Us for Help
If your son or daughter has been arrested and is facing charges, it is important to seek help from an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Call [[phone1]] for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today. We will assist you in exploring your options and protecting your child’s future.