Injustice in the Juvenile Justice System — Part II

District Attorney George Gascon’s blanket “Youth Justice Policy” is retraumatizing victims whose cases were concluded years ago. Family after family has been told that the person who murdered their loved one and was sentenced to prison will be released.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds who commit exceptionally heinous and brutal crimes, who are repeat offenders, or whose crimes exhibit adult sophistication can legally be charged in criminal court. Prior to Proposition 57, the decision whether to keep the minor in juvenile court or transfer them to criminal court was made by the district attorney. Proposition 57, enacted by the voters in 2016, changed the law to allow the prosecutor to make a motion to transfer a minor to criminal court but required that a judge make the final decision.

Former minors (all of whom are now in the 20s or 30s) who were charged, convicted and sentenced in criminal court prior to Prop. 57 have been sent back to the juvenile court by the Court of Appeal with an order to the court to hold a retroactive transfer hearing. Although transfer motions had been filed in each of these cases before Gascon took office, Gascon has now determined that his policy of never sending juveniles to criminal court should apply retroactively. The result is that approximately 20 former minors who were convicted of gang murderers, sometimes of multiple murders, are now back in our communities having served only a few years in custody.

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