Resolution in Support of Establishing a Minimum Age of Delinquency Adjudication of At Least 10-Years-Old
This Resolution encourages states to establish a minimum age of delinquency adjudication of at least 10-years-old provided that there is a civil mechanism for providing mandatory services, including residential care where appropriate, for youths below that age.
Whereas, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is committed to developing effective criminal justice policies that create safe communities for citizens as well as strong state budgets; and
WHEREAS, in some states a statute sets the minimum age of youth jurisdiction and that in 11 of these states 10-years-old is the prescribed age; and
WHEREAS, states such as Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas have set a minimum age of delinquency adjudication of 10;
WHEREAS, Texas provides an alternative civil procedure termed “conduct indicating a need for supervision” which without a delinquency adjudication enables children age 10 and below to be referred to juvenile probation and placed in a residential facility if necessary;
Whereas, very young children should be held accountable in an appropriate way but often do not have the intellectual capability and maturity to fully understand the consequences of their actions and the charges against them, and scientific research has found that in young children the qualities such as impulse control and future orientation are not well developed in the brain;
Whereas, the critical goals of public safety and rehabilitation require that states ensure there are other mechanisms for supervising, treating, and when necessary placing in residential care youths below the minimum age for delinquency adjudication; and
Whereas, research demonstrates that for young children formal adjudication in the justice system can increase recidivism and that there are many gaps in state record sealing laws which means that a juvenile record can sometimes result in lifelong collateral consequences affecting areas such as employment and housing;
Whereas, recognizing that the family is the fundamental building block of society, less adversarial methods than formal adjudication can be more collaborative in working with the parents to address the child’s behavior; and
Therefore Be It Resolved that states should establish a minimum age of delinquency adjudication of at least 10-years-old while ensuring an alternative mechanism is available to provide accountability and both non-residential and residential services and supervision.
Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors May 24, 2018.