March 28,

Committee on Judiciary

My name is Jesse Kelley, and I am the Government
Affairs Specialist for the R Street Institute, which is a nonprofit,
nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in
policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective
government in many areas, including juvenile justice reform, which is why SB
969 is of special interest to us.

Oregon should continue to move toward the ideal
aims of juvenile justice involvement—improved public safety and youth
rehabilitation. We admire this bill’s objective to eliminate mandatory adult
prosecution for certain offenses committed when the person charged is 15, 16 or
17 years of age at the time of the offense. We also support the provision that
would require the juvenile court to hold a hearing to determine whether a
person should be prosecuted as an adult.

Limiting the prosecution of youth as adults will
result in more positive outcomes for justice-involved youth and ultimately will
create safer, stronger communities.

Children face harsh consequences when removed
from the juvenile court system. The adult system is ill-suited to serve young
people. Young people’s brains, including their decision-making capabilities,
are still developing. However, once placed in the adult system, youth are
unlikely to receive educational opportunities to reach their full potential.

Adult facilities also offer fewer counseling
services and treatment options than juvenile ones. The staff at juvenile
facilities receive special training to work with youth and are often subject to
lower inmate-to-staff ratios, which allows for a higher level of specialized

Second, treating justice-involved children as
adults is bad policy. Studies have shown that children who are in the adult
system do not simply re-offend more quickly—they go on to commit more serious
crimes. In contrast, most youth in the juvenile justice system will never
commit a subsequent crime.

In fact, there is evidence to suggest that
placing youth in adult facilities is actually detrimental to public safety. The
sense of injustice young people will inherently feel about being tried as an
adult; the apprehension of criminal mores due to exposure to older, more
sophisticated individuals; and the decreased focus on rehabilitation and family
support in the adult system can lead to increased recidivism for youth
transferred to the adult system. 
Specifically, those youth placed in the adult system are 34 percent to
77 percent more likely to be re-arrested than those who stay in the juvenile
justice system.[1]

Certainly, children who commit crimes should be
held accountable, but the best way to do it—for them and for society—is to
allow them to remain in the juvenile system. For these and other reasons, we
support advancing SB 969 and will make ourselves available for additional

Thank you for your consideration,

Jesse Kelley, Esq.
Government Affairs Specialist, Criminal Justice Policy
R Street Institute

[email protected]

[1] Campaign for Youth
Justice. “Key Facts: Youth in the Justice System.” June 2016. p.3

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