justice reform

Juvenile Justice Advocates Seek To Raise The Minimum Age A Child Can Be Arrested

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Right now a child as young as 7 can be arrested in Connecticut. Juvenile justice advocates were outside the state Capitol Thursday calling for lawmakers to change that. 

“They’re children, they're little kids, they’re going to make mistakes and they really shouldn’t be criminalized,” Christina Quaranta, executive director of the Connecticut Justice Alliance, said.

Currently, a 7-year-old in Connecticut can be arrested. In 2019, the Justice Alliance sais there were nearly 100 children between the ages of 7 and 12 arrested and sent to court.

“We do know that young people are best served, not by a court but by community service,” Quaranta said. 

Quaranta called for the age to be raised to 12 but the judiciary committee knocked it down to 10. 

“The concept that you can arrest a 7-year-old would probably blow people's minds,” Rep. Jason Perllio, R-Shelton, said. 

Perillo agrees with that part of the bill, but has concerns about other parts. 

“The idea that a 17-year-old or a 16-year-old can commit a crime and then poof they turn 18 and it's gone forever, would probably enrage a lot of people,” Perillo said. 

The bill also automatically erases juvenile records after a person turns 18. 

“The average brain isn’t developed until the age of 25 so it’s also critical to understand that these youth shouldn’t be held punitively for their actions of just being a kid you know. We all make mistakes,” Alona Scott, a justice advisor from Stratford, said. 

The bill is expected to be raised in the House in the next week. 

“It’s giving the kids the opportunity to get out of the drama that they’ve gotten into,” Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, said.

He added: “It’s important for our kids to be successful even though they have trials and tribulations as they grow up.” 

The bill would also ban the use of pepper spray on anyone under the age of 18 in the custody of the state. 

“We are one of the only states that allow that to happen,” Quaranta said.

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