Who should call the shots in juvenile trials?
Re: "Leave state's juvenile justice system intact," March 14 guest commentary.
The research does not support Attorney General John Suthers' assertions on proposed reforms to Colorado's juvenile justice system (House Bill 1271).
Crime did not decrease in Colorado simply because we shifted power to prosecutors to decide whether to try juveniles as adults, a process known as direct file. Juvenile crime has gone down everywhere, even in states without direct file; further, research has shown that direct file does not increase public safety and that juveniles tried as adults are more likely to re-offend.
Colorado would be a far cry from "the most lenient" state under the reforms, as Suthers suggests. In fact, Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden testified that reforms would bring our system more in line with Texas'. Colorado is currently one of four states where prosecutors have sole discretion to try a juvenile in adult court, and defendants cannot request judicial review.
We should reform our direct-file laws and implement those practices that are proven to advance public safety.
Rich Jones, Director of Public Policy, The Bell Policy Center, Denver
Lizzy Stephan, Public Policy Fellow, The Bell Policy Center
This letter was published in the March 23 edition.