Alabama ABA President Wells in NY Times Opinion


letters190

To the Editor:

The American Bar Association agrees with “12 and in Prison” (editorial, July 28). Trying young children in adult courts is terrible public policy.

We have urged juvenile justice reform for decades. In 2008 the A.B.A. urged state and federal leaders to base juvenile justice policy on three principles: Juvenile sentences should be less punitive than for adults with comparable offenses; sentencing should recognize age-based mitigating factors; and juveniles in penal institutions should generally be eligible for early release.

As the Supreme Court agreed in 2005, juveniles are less guilty because of inherent adolescent characteristics. Juveniles are less mature, experienced and able to use good judgment and self-restraint, and are more likely to be influenced by others than are adults.

Between 1985 and 1997, this country doubled the number of youths in adult prisons. By 2001, we were trying 200,000 juveniles in adult courts each year. It’s time we enact reforms.

H. Thomas Wells Jr.
President, American Bar Association
Birmingham, Ala., July 28, 2009

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