National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

Raise the Age California Coalition Issues Public Statement

January 30, 2020

Californians who have experienced the adult and youth prison system, along with youth advocates, have long called for California to recognize and meet the unique needs of emerging adults by keeping them out of the adult punishment system and instead provide them with the support and resources needed to thrive, without expanding an unjust youth prison system. Now more than ever, California has an exciting opportunity to ensure that young people stay under the purview of youth-serving systems and invest in community-based supports and alternatives to punishment and confinement of youth.

Research from the field of cognitive science has consistently shown that youth under 26 years of age are still developing their decision making capacity. The current age line of 18 is not evidenced based, harsh, and arbitrary. Furthermore, placing youth who have already experienced trauma in adult jails and prisons and adult court only causes additional harm. Data also shows that not all young people who are in conflict with the law are treated equally; Black, Chicano/Mexican, Latinx, and Native young adults are particularly vulnerable to excessive punishment.

As organizations led by people who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system, and those who advocate on their behalf, we are excited to see Senator Skinner’s commitment to addressing the injustice of imprisoning youth. At the same time, it will be critically important to guard against unintended consequences. We look forward to the opportunity to partner with the Senator to further a more just California–one that prioritizes keeping youth in their communities and out of the adult criminal legal system, as well as out of juvenile halls and youth prisons, supports youth development and healing, and invests in the strengths and interests of all young people.

Those who have experienced these systems are best positioned to develop and implement responses to the needs of emerging adults. Their expertise and leadership will transform California’s youth justice system into one that does not exacerbate trauma and instead promotes community safety by helping all young people thrive.

Raise the Age California Coalition,

East Bay Community Law Center

• Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, CURYJ

• Children’s Defense Fund-California

• California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice

• Anti-Recidivism Coalition, ARC

• Alliance for Boys and Men of Color

• Alameda County Public Defender

• Youth Justice Coalition

• W. Haywood Burn’s Institute

• Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos

• Pacific Juvenile Defender Center

• National Center for Youth Law, NCYL

• Legal Support for Prisoners with Children / All of Us or None

• Ella Baker Center for Human Rights