The Anti-Racist Imperative of Infancy

Immediate and complete elimination of the juvenile legal system would be fraught with political and logistical challenges. Incremental “shrinkage,” however, is not only possible but has already begun to occur.307 One incrementalist strategy is to reduce the reach of that system by constricting its jurisdiction over certain behaviors and certain children, particularly the very young.

Embracing a minimum jurisdictional age of fourteen would constitute such a constriction and pave a pathway toward abolition of a system that has been unjust, ineffective, and irrational since its inception. To do so would reduce or eliminate the pervasive, well-documented harms of system involvement. It would decrease racial disparities across the system and help prevent school push-out. It would be consistent with behavioral and neuroscience and widely-embraced international human rights standards. And it helps ensure that children like Kaia Rolle will never again be handcuffed, forced into a police car, and stigmatized, simply for being a child. We owe them that much.

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Categories: Law Review Articles, Resource Library
Tags: Adolescent Development, Adultification, Age of Jurisdiction, Collateral Consequences, Competence, Harms of Incarceration, Police, Racial and Ethnic Disparities, Racial Justice, Restorative Justice, School & Education & Special Education, School and Special Education, Structural Racism, System Transformation & Abolition, Trauma, Youth & Families