This bill would establish a minimum age below which children cannot be prosecuted for crimes (12) or sent to prison (14). Current Maine law has no minimum age for prosecution; 11 year olds can be sent to prison. It would require prosecutors and judges to justify incarcerating a child rather than securing treatment or placement in other settings; ensure that children continue to have legal representation while in custody or on probation; and require regular judicial review of children in custody to ensure that incarceration remains safe, provides appropriate services, and is not doing more harm than good. It would also eliminate the requirement that a child's imprisonment be for "at least a year."
The young people in Maine’s juvenile justice system would be far better served in community-based programs that get them the help they need. Our goal should be helping them grow into responsible adults, not punishing them in ways that increase their likelihood of staying in the system.
Other states are moving away from the youth prison model in favor of community-based treatment, and Maine can, too.