California Ends Direct File
Californians voted decisively to give the power to decide who’s tried as an adult back to judges, taking back a power previously granted to prosecutors. By a more than 2-1 margin Californians passed Proposition 57 on November 8th. NCYL Attorney Frankie Guzman was one of the initiative’s authors.
Passage of Proposition 57 increases the likelihood that youth as young as 14 years old who are accused of crimes will have access to education and rehabilitative services. Currently, in many cases prosecutors alone make the decision to try youth as adults in criminal court, where they face adult prison sentences, exposure to violence, and little access to treatment and services. Now that decision in the hands of judges who advocates believe are better suited to take into account the important developmental differences between youth and adults. Judges will now be expected to take into consideration the youth’s community environment and childhood trauma, as well as their mental and emotional development. It would also shifts the burden of proof in the juvenile fitness hearing by requiring prosecutors to prove that the youth deserve to be in an adult court. Currently, youth must prove that they should remain in the juvenile system.
In addition, the initiative includes provisions intended to incentivize rehabilitation for adults in prison by allowing parole for prisoners with non-violent offenses who prove they are rehabilitated, and eliminating restrictions on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s ability to award credit to people in prison who demonstrate good behavior and engage in rehabilitative programs.