The Health Impacts of Charging Youth as Adults

Oakland, CA — Even with Proposition 57 passing this past November, it’s clear that the fight is not over. Charging youth as adults is a harmful practice that’s still possible in California, and across the country. 

Our new health impact assessment report (PDF) “Juvenile InJustice: Charging Youth as Adults is Ineffective, Biased, and Harmful” is a collaboration with the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice. It centralizes the experience of incarcerated youth of color, formerly incarcerated individuals, and their families. Our research shows the harmful effects of this practice on youth and their families, and our report provides recommendations for increased community investment and restorative justice-oriented solutions to improve health outcomes for everyone.

Key Findings
  • The justice system is biased against youth of color — youth of color are more likely to be tried as adults than White youth, even when being charged with similar crimes. In California in 2015, 88% of juveniles tried as adults were youth of color.
  • The adult court system ignores developmental science and environmental contexts — the context of a young person’s life, especially in low-income communities with a history of disinvestment, is largely ignored by the adult court system.
  • Youth and families are resilient despite the negative impacts they must deal with — exposure to violence, stress, stigma, and isolation are all examples of common experiences. Despite these challenges, youth and families of color are often gathering and organizing to change the system.

As a society…do we want young people to be left to a specific, certain fate in prison…or do we want a process of education, a process of healing, a process of insight to support them to understand how they got there, a process of growth? What do we want?

– Malachi, charged as an adult at age 15

Read the full report