Criminals are exploiting lenient laws for young suspects to recruit juveniles to commit crimes on their behalf.
According to Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, “A juvenile pretty much has to almost kill somebody to be placed in custody and remain in custody. Otherwise, it’s a revolving door there. They’re in one door and out the other, and that emboldens them.”
According to the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund, advocates for juvenile criminal justice reform argue that incarceration can have negative consequences such as stunting children’s education, depriving them of key social interaction, and putting them at greater risk of trauma and mental health issues. The group supports alternatives to prison, such as diversion, treatment, after-school programs, and family programs.
“There’s been a lot of changes in the juvenile justice system over the last decade or so,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. “Absolutely none of them are good. They’re making matters worse.”
A bipartisan California law prohibits police from interrogating juveniles until the suspect consults with an attorney. Another bill passed last year makes it more difficult for judges to try minors as adults.
Overall the trend of youths being arrested is down from the 1990s.
Juvenile arrest rates have dropped since the mid-1990s, but juvenile arrests on murder charges have increased in recent years. In 2020, the number of killers under 14 hit its highest point in 20 years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Justice. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco says adult criminals are taking advantage of the juvenile justice system and recruiting minors to commit crimes for them because they know the law favors juveniles.
“So they are recruiting more and more juveniles into the criminal side of things to do these crimes for them, knowing that they’re not going to be punished,” he said. “And they tell them, ‘Nothing can happen to you.'”
Advocates for juvenile criminal justice reform argue that incarceration harms children’s education, social development, and mental health, according to the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund. The organization supports alternatives to prison, such as diversion, treatment, after-school programs, and family programs. However, Sheriff Bianco argues that recent changes to the juvenile justice system have made matters worse. He believes that adult criminals are taking advantage of softer laws and tougher policing standards, which have emboldened juveniles.
A Florida sheriff also attributes the recent increase in youth violence to gang recruitment.
According to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, “The laws haven’t caught up to the fact that the gangs outsmart us. Give a gun to a juvenile, drugs to a juvenile, a carjacking, a home invasion — the penalties are much, much less.”
Advocates for juvenile criminal justice reform argue that incarceration can have negative effects on children’s education and mental health, and the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund supports alternatives to prison, such as diversion, treatment, after-school programs, and family programs. While the adult justice system focuses on punishment, the juvenile system emphasizes rehabilitation and is more likely to offer alternatives to incarceration, such as probation, diversion programs, and parole.
Data from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that overall juvenile arrest rates have decreased since the mid-1990s, but the number of juvenile arrests on murder charges has slightly increased in recent years. Sheriff Bianco believes felons are taking advantage of softer laws for young suspects and recruiting juveniles to commit crimes on their behalf. In 2020, the number of killers under the age of 14 hit its highest point in two decades.
According to Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, police across the country are feeling frustrated as adult criminals are getting away with their crimes by recruiting minors to do the job. They are aware that the law protects minors from being arrested and questioned, which is why they are using juveniles to commit the crimes. Bianco said, “They know we can’t arrest them. They know we can’t talk to them. And then they’re benefiting from that juvenile committing a crime. That is happening everywhere.”