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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: June 15, 2022 01:45 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb and Rep. Jessica Benham, Rep. Donna Bullock, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, Rep. Kristine C. Howard, Rep. Sara Innamorato, Rep. Emily Kinkead, Rep. Rick Krajewski, Rep. Summer Lee, Rep. Napoleon J. Nelson, Rep. Mike Zabel
To: All House members
Subject: Ending charging of children as adults
We should ensure the legal system treats all children as children by prohibiting direct filing and transfer of cases involving children to the adult system.
In 2017, more than 400 children between the ages of 14 and 17 were charged with criminal offenses in adult court due to a law passed by our legislature in 1995 inspired by the racist, bipartisan trope of the “super-predator”.  
More than 80 percent of youth prosecuted as adults arrive in adult court through direct file, with young Black men accounting for 57 percent of adult convictions while only making up 7 percent of the statewide youth population. In fact, nearly 60% of cases in which youth are tried as adults end up dismissed, withdrawn, or returned to the juvenile system anyway.
Originally heralded as rehabilitative and a deterrent, Act 33 of Special Session 1 of 1995 requires individuals between the ages of 15 and 17 charged with certain felonies be charged in adult court if they meet certain requirements, such as the use of a weapon during the alleged crime.  
However, instead of helping our youth, this “direct file” law has been proven time and time again to be a failure, nothing more than a cruel, unnecessary punishment that forces children into the adult prison system. Research has shown again and again that young people tried as adults have higher rates of recidivism than those who remain in the juvenile system.

We cannot allow this any longer.
This legislation aims to protect and rehabilitate young Pennsylvanians by repealing the direct file law so that our youth can be tried as youth and given the resources they need to avoid a lifetime in the criminal legal system. It goes further by requiring that all children be treated as children, and never prosecuted as adults.
Charging children as adults is damaging to their well-being, the well-being of their loved ones, and the well-being of this commonwealth.
Please join us in supporting this forthcoming legislation.

Introduced as HB2758