California would expand its juvenile-justice system to include 18- and 19-year-olds under a proposal from the state’s probation chiefs, a move they said would allow a more restorative approach for those teenagers but one expert warned could be difficult to implement.
Felony murder is not your average murder. Juvenile justice advocates call felony murder laws arcane and say they unfairly harm children and young adults. Prosecutors can charge them with felony murder even if they didn’t kill anyone or intend to do so. What’s required is the intent to commit a felony — like burglary, arson or rape — and that someone dies during the process.
Everyone involved in that underlying felony can be held responsible for the death. In some cases, a person who wasn’t even present when the death occurred may face a felony murder charge too. It’s a controversial provision that has been around for hundreds of years. It got its start in England, which abolished the rule in the 1950s. Other countries followed suit.
When the Annie E. Casey Foundation launched the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in the tough-on-crime era of the early 1990s, politicians were labeling teenage offenders “superpredators” and states were passing laws making it easier to prosecute kids as adults. Rates of juvenile detention were skyrocketing.
Nearly 30 years later, JDAI’s radical-for-its-time proposition that locking youth up neither improves their behavior nor protects public safety has been borne out.
Average daily juvenile detention populations have been halved in the more than 300 counties across 40 states and Washington, D.C., that have adopted JDAI reforms. Detention admissions are down 57%. In most localities, crime rates have continued to decline.