HELENA - The ACLU of Montana stands opposed to the passage of House Bill 614 by the Senate Judiciary Committee which would allow children as young as 12 to be prosecuted as adults in Montana.
“House Bill 614 is antithetical to our values as Montanans by increasing the prosecution of young children as adults," said Maggie Bornstein, Legislative Session Lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. "We cannot turn our backs on vulnerable youth who make mistakes."
HB 614 makes historic revisions to the Montana Youth Court Act. Passed by the Montana State Legislature in 1974, Montana’s juvenile legal system is by design focused on non-retributive accountability and growth for justice-involved kids while maintaining family togetherness whenever possible.
“This legislation tramples on the due process afforded to kids under the United States Constitution and our own Montana Constitution," continued Bornstein. "In doing so, our state will continue to exacerbate glaring disparities, such as the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth and children from low-income families in the criminal legal system. The ACLU of Montana will continue to fight for Montana's youth and fight against passage of HB 614."
The legislation proposed by Rep. Bill Mercer (R-Billings) expands when kids can be prosecuted as adults, eliminates the waiver hearing for additional offenses to be waived into district court, increases prosecutorial discretion, changes supervision revocation to mirror more closely the adult revocation process, and adds coercive stipulations to mislead kids into voluntarily waiving into district court.