The New Jersey Supreme Court in September ruled in favor of requiring greater specificity from prosecutors when they seek to waive youth into the adult criminal court system. The ruling is a victory for NASW and other organizations that joined in filing an amicus brief in the case State in the Matter of V.A.
The brief, which was led by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, argued that minority youths are waived into the adult system disproportionately. As a result, these young people suffer disparate rates of incarceration and collateral consequences of conviction.
It notes that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling highlights the fact that youths are developmentally different from adults. Nonetheless, states across the U.S., including New Jersey, enact laws that expose an increasing number of young people to adult prosecution and imprisonment.
In order to change this practice, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that: (a) before seeking to transfer a child’s case from family court to adult criminal court, prosecutors must evaluate the case carefully and exercise their discretion with great care; (b) when prosecutors do seek waiver, they must present more particularized and individualized reasons than previously required; and (c) judges must exercise meaningful review of prosecutors’ actions in this area by applying an “abuse of discretion” standard.
Visit the NASW Legal Defense Fund Amicus Brief Database at www.socialworker.org/ldf/brief_bank for these and other cases.
From the November 2012 NASW News.