Ending the Practice of Juvenile Offenders Waived to the Adult Criminal Legal System

The Client: A coalition of stakeholders convened by the Campaign for Youth Justice and the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee. This coalition seeks to compose an advocacy strategy that will lead to the elimination of the practice of waiving juvenile offenders into the adult system in Iowa.

The Problem: Treating children like adults leads to long-term problems for these juveniles including but not limited to the trauma of being isolated in an adult facility for months on end, the denial of educational and recreational services in adult facilities, and the traditional host of consequences that accompany being convicted in adult court. Further, there is very little information on the demographics of these waived youths and the services they are provided while in adult facilities. The waiver system also has a disproportionate impact on Black youths.

The Outcome: The CELP team interviewed over 20 third parties, conducted legal and policy research, and gathered data on waived youths in an effort to assess the effectiveness of Iowa’s waiver system. The third parties CELP interviewed included judges, public defenders, law enforcement officers, juvenile court officers, waived youths, and more. The legal and policy research focused on gaining a holistic understanding of the Iowa waiver system so that this system could be laid out in a report and a presentation on Iowa’s wavier system. The data gathering involved reaching out to the Iowa Department of Corrections and the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning and synthesizing the data CELP obtained form them. In addition, the team presented some of this information at the Urgency for Equity Conference and also composed a detailed report that described the problems within the Iowa waiver system and the various ways to address those problems.

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