Juvenile justice bill moves to state House

A bill that would prevent some teenagers from automatically being tried as adults in the court system passed out of the state Senate with a 26-3 vote Thursday.

Senate Bill 36, sponsored by Chairman Whitney Westerfield, seeks to allow juvenile court judges to use their discretion in the decision to transfer youth ages 14 and older to adult court for certain offenses. When judges have the discretion to decide how to handle these cases rather than mandating a transfer, courts can respond more effectively to cases, and children can have better access to rehabilitative supports and services.

Westerfield has sponsored versions of the measure for the last three years, saying that automatic transfer policies contribute to the overrepresentation of young Black people in the justice system.

Senate Bill 36 now moves to the state House for consideration in committee.

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