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Report: Mandatory Minimums Not Useful for Youth

Youths lose out when they're taken from the juvenile court system to the adult court system, a new report says. (D Coetzee/Flickr)
Youths lose out when they're taken from the juvenile court system to the adult court system, a new report says. (D Coetzee/Flickr)
January 31, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon youths should not be treated as adults in the criminal justice system, according to a new report from the Oregon Council on Civil Rights.

The report looks at the effects of Measure 11, which requires young people 15 and older be tried as adults for certain crimes.

The report finds young people lose out when they're moved to adult courts.

Juvenile courts, in contrast, seek to hold youths accountable and help them get back on track.

Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center and an Oregon Council on Civil Rights member, says felony convictions for young people follow them throughout life.

"The lifetime consequences that individuals face with a felony conviction can be pretty severe, from housing to employment to education, so on and so forth,” he states. “So, being able to fully reintegrate into society is more problematic or more challenging."

Youths of color experience the brunt of this policy, according to the report. It found in 2012, Oregon convicted black youths of Measure 11 offenses at 26 times the rate of their white peers.

Measure 11 covers offenses from second-degree robbery to murder.

Singh says judges should be able to consider each case differently, rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach.

The report includes interviews with young people charged under this measure about their backgrounds.

Singh says as the interviews show, a complex set of factors lead to these crimes. He adds that sentencing policies should get in line with modern brain science.

"What it fundamentally is doing is disregarding our understanding of brain development or youth and how they develop,” he points out. “Because youth have the capacity to change and are able to rehabilitate, we should have a justice system that actually is sensitive and respectful of that science."

Singh says this is ultimately a question for the legislature. He suggests lawmakers remove youths from Measure 11.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR