The Oregon Council on Civil Rights recently released a groundbreaking report that ought to change our criminal justice system.
The independent, fact-based, non-partisan study found that Oregon district attorneys often charge young people in a way that is “harsh and costly” and “at odds with a contemporary brain science.” It recommends that we join other states in moving away from this practice.
Charging youth as adults
In Oregon, DAs have the power to charge a young person as an adult if they have committed certain crimes and are 15, 16, or 17 years old. If young people are put into the adult system, they are often denied access to protections and programs designed to treat young people more humanely, hold them accountable, while also creating opportunities for them to successfully rebuild their lives.
For example, a 15 year old in the juvenile system can commonly access treatment, rehabilitation, and diversion programs and are kept out of adult prison. They can be connected to counselors who assess how to improve their support system at home. Their records can be expunged sooner so they can more easily find work and housing after they finish serving their time.
But if a DA charges a 15 year old in the adult system, that young person cannot access many of those same programs, they will bear the burden of an adult criminal record that severely limits their future opportunities, and they may spend time in adult prison.