Although crimes committed by juveniles and adults can be similar in nature, there are key differences in the way the justice system handles juvenile offenses. A recent bill passed by the NJ Senate proposes a new set of rules for youth solitary confinement which would revamp the juvenile justice system and make it more difficult to charge adolescents as adults.
The changes were proposed after two years of consulting with advocacy groups and law enforcement organizations and researching ways to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. “There has been no evidence to support that waiving youths reduces juvenile crimes. Yet, studies have shown that young individuals who are waived to the adult system are more likely to (commit crimes again),” said the bill’s sponsor, NJ Senator Nellie Pou.
Under the new bill, the minimum age in which a teenager can be moved, or waived, from the juvenile system into the adult system would increase from age 14 to 15. In addition, those over 15 could only be sent to adult courts for the most serious criminal offenses like sexual assault or homicide.
The age when adolescents could be physically transferred to adult facilities would also increase, from age 16 to 18. Offenders would be provided with written notice of transfer and an opportunity to raise objections. If good cause is shown, some offenders would also be allowed to stay in juvenile facilities up until age 21, rather than transferring to an adult facility.
An important aspect of the bill focuses on solitary confinement. The current limit on room restriction for adolescents is a maximum of eight hours per day for no longer than 10 consecutive days. Under the new rules, solitary confinement would be limited to no more than two consecutive days for 15-year-olds, no more than three for those between 16 and 17, and no more than five for those 18 and older.
Dan Phillips, a legislative liaison for the Administrative Office of the Courts explained, “It’s really about saving lives and trying to break the cycle of crime. It’s another evolution of smart justice.” The state Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee approved the measure by a 5-3 vote on June 1, 2015 and the bill currently awaits a vote in the full Assembly before reaching the office of Governor Chris Christie.
If you or a loved one was charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact skilled criminal defense attorney Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law. He will defend your constitutional rights, fight to keep you out of jail, and do what he can to have your criminal charges dismissed. Call him today at 888-815-3649.