There are already many crimes in Connecticut that could lead a juvenile to be transferred to the adult criminal justice system. Most of these are violent crimes, including murder and rape. However, car theft among juveniles is up 37 percent over the past ten years in Connecticut. That has some legislators calling for an automatic transfer out of the juvenile system for some minors charged with car theft.
Not every juvenile charged with car theft would automatically be transferred to adult court. The bill that was proposed in March would only include juveniles that have already committed two felonies. Still, many feel as though the bill goes too far, and that it is excessively harsh.
“Children should not be sent to serve their sentences with adults for the crime of car theft,” says Mark Sherman of The Law Offices of Mark Sherman. “It just does not make sense. Instead, we should be educating adult drivers about not leaving their vehicles running when they are not in them, and common-sense practices such as locking their doors.”
It is true that many of the juvenile cases involving car theft have occurred because owners left their vehicle open, or even running while they stopped into a store or ran back into their home. There is also the argument that prosecutors already have discretion when to try a juvenile in adult court. Making the transfer automatic is dangerous for the youth facing charges, and gives them little chance at rehabilitation.
The problem of car theft is also not one that is restricted to juveniles. Adult car theft crimes have also increased exponentially around the state, and around the country. These crimes are increasing far more quickly than juvenile car theft.
Additionally, like most crimes, if this new bill is passed, it will disproportionately target youths of color. African American youths are more likely to be transferred to adult court than their Caucasian counterparts.
It is true that juveniles do not know how to operate a car safely when they steal a vehicle. However, the answer is not to incarcerate them, and it certainly will not make Connecticut any safer.