Fewer minors to be tried as adults in Yakima County
YAKIMA, Wash.- Yakima County has recently seen juveniles face charges of murder, rape and assault. With some of them being tried as adults.
However, Governor Jay Inslee has signed legislation that would reduce the number of youths that can be transfered to adult court.
House Bill 6160 takes crimes like drive-by shootings, first-degree robbery and burglary off the auto-decline list and extends how long minor can be kept in juvenile jail from age 21 to 25.
“We get to keep them in juvenile court, but we arguably get to have more time in terms of confinement to punish them for these offenses,” Yakima County’s Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Brusic said.
He said the state has been trying to make this move for years now.
Brusic said many prosecuting attorneys in the state aren't completely happy with the decision, but the increased time in juvenile jail helped.
“Had they not given us that extension of time, then I think what we would have seen is some of these first-degree robberies and burglaries be treated much differently and much more lightly than they would have if they were automatically transferred to adult court,” he said.
One of the arguments in the bill to treat juveniles differently than adults, is that their brains are still developing.
People with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) said the increased time in juvenile jail will give them more time to get them ready for the outside world again.
“The idea is that once they do get out of our custody they will go back to their communities be productive with these skills and not get in trouble again,” Chris Wright with DSHS said.
The department's most recent study said about one-third of juveniles in court reoffend once they're out.
Wright said they hope by extending the amount of time in jail to 25, it will help bring that number down.
The bill also includes extending sentences by a year for minors being arrested with a gun and adding 90 days if they are gang related.
The law is set to go into effect in June of this year.