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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 18, 2023 12:05 PM
From: Senator Camera Bartolotta and Sen. Anthony H. Williams, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Eliminating Direct File/Transfer of Juveniles
In the near future, we plan to reintroduce legislation that would eliminate the practice of automatically charging children as adults without judicial review and would narrow the criteria for transfer from juvenile court to adult court. This legislation was Senate Bill 1240 of last session.
Currently in the Commonwealth hundreds of youth under the age of 18 are charged as adults and automatically held in adult jails based on their initial charge (a practice often referred to as “direct file”). Our legislation would require that all cases against children originate in juvenile court, while still allowing for a child to be charged as an adult in some cases. However, the decision would be made by a juvenile court judge, who is best equipped to make this determination.
The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force reviewed data on direct file and transfer in its 2021 report and found grave racial disparities in the practice. While black boys make up 7% of Pennsylvania’s youth population, they make up 58% of youth prosecuted as adults. The task force also found that nearly 60% of adult prosecutions of children are returned to juvenile court, dismissed, or withdrawn. This represents a staggering waste of both taxpayer dollars and human potential, as young people await the outcome of their case in an adult jail that is not equipped to serve or support them.
Additionally, other research shows that prosecuting children as adults increases recidivism. Youth prosecuted as adults have far higher recidivism rates than youth whose cases remain in the juvenile system, even for similar offenses. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that “transferring juveniles to the adult system is counterproductive as a strategy for preventing or reducing violence."
For all of these reasons, we ask you to join us in sponsoring this important legislation which will reduce recidivism, control costs, make our communities safer, and allow all young people the opportunity to grow and change in an environment that is designed for them.

Introduced as SB751