What's At Stake
- Over half the states in the U.S. do not set a minimum age of prosecution in juvenile court. And although common sense and international standards compel removal of younger children from the juvenile legal system, these states have yet to heed the call. Youth defenders are working in their states to educate policy makers about why it makes sense to set a minimum age of prosecution at 14.
- Because younger children are inherently more vulnerable, they should not be subject to the potential harms of juvenile court and the life-long consequences that stem from such involvement. States should strengthen community supports outside the justice system and set the minimum age of prosecution at 14 years old. While there is not a specified minimum age of criminal responsibility under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN’s Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty recommends that all UN member states set a minimum age of criminal responsibility no lower than age 14.
- Additionally, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (which is responsible for monitoring compliance with the CRC) encourages countries to consider minimum ages as high as 16, based on collective international standards. Among countries that set the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 14 or higher are Argentina, China, Congo, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Somalia, Sweden, Russia, and Ukraine, to name a few.