Testimony in SUPPORT of H.B. 440, “Juvenile Code; juvenile court to include children who are under the age of 18 years; change jurisdiction.”
Chair and members of the committee,
My name is Marc Hyden. I am a Georgia
resident and the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street
Institute, a center-right, free market think tank that supports limited
effective government in many areas, including criminal justice reform. That is why
H.B. 440, which would raise the age of adult criminal responsibility, is of
special interest to us.
Georgia is one of only four states that
automatically prosecutes certain minors as adults, and there are many reasons
that the supermajority of states has moved away from this model.
Trying 17-year-olds as adults is unfair.
After all, if they cannot be trusted with opening a banking account or buying a
lottery ticket, why should they be held to the same level of responsibility as
adults? Clearly, they should not.
This policy burdens minors with criminal
records that may follow them for the rest of their adult lives – preventing
them from enjoying rights and privileges and making it more difficult to obtain
a decent job, merely because of a mistake they committed as a child.
Placing minors in adult prisons also creates
negative outcomes. These
individuals are up to 77 percent more likely to recidivate than those who are
housed in juvenile facilities. This policy also places youths in serious
youths comprise less than 1 percent of the prison population, but they are the
victims of 21 percent of sexual violence in prisons.
science suggests that minors lack a degree of culpability because their brains
are still developing. Indeed, the propensity toward aggressive and irrational
behavior usually doesn’t begin to dissipate until sometime after one’s 17th
all of these issues, punishing 17-year-olds as adults wholesale is unnecessary.
Other methods, including discretionary waivers, permit minors to be treated as
adults in specific and particularly heinous circumstances, while allowing the
majority of minors to be treated as the children that they are.
these reasons, the R Street Institute believes that Georgia should raise the
age of adult criminal responsibility, and when the time comes, we hope you will
give H.B. 440 careful consideration.