OLYMPIA – Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) introduced a bill today that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to ages 13-19, up from 8-17. Senate Bill 5122 was created to respond to research that shows teenagers benefit more from the rehabilitative response available in the juvenile court system as compared to the adult criminal legal system.

“There is very strong research-based evidence showing this legislation would decrease involvement in the criminal legal system for tens of thousands of young people,” said Darneille. “This evidence also shows this would reduce recidivism and improve health outcomes by maintaining their access to employment opportunities, housing, and economic stability. Because our current policing system and the school to prison pipeline disproportionately harm youth of color, I’m confident this legislation would help reduce that harm as we work on improving equity in Washington.”

The concept of raising the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction is starting to gain ground in the U.S., but it’s a concept that has been around for at least two decades.  In 2003, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommended emerging adults under 21 be treated as juveniles, and in the following years there has been a growing trend among European countries toward complying with this recommendation.

SB 5122 does not change the circumstances under which juveniles 16 to 19 years of age may be subject to adult court, including committing a serious violent offense, violent offense with certain histories, or other offenses that result in declination to adult court. However, among teenagers ages 18 and 19, these offenses occur at a much lower rate than lower-level offenses.

To view the State Board of Health’s Health Impact Review on this bill, please visit: https://sboh.wa.gov/Portals/7/Doc/HealthImpactReviews/HIR-2020-15-S-6720.1.pdf