Young people are different from adults. They have different needs from adults and a unique ability to change and grow. Whenever possible, young people who make mistakes and are accused of crimes should be kept in the juvenile justice system, instead of being sent directly to adult prisons. Under Act 33, young people 15 and older can be tried directly in adult court for a number of crimes. Youth tried as adults in Philadelphia are held in the adult county jails while they await trial. More than 40% of "direct file" cases in Philadelphia are eventually sent to juvenile court through a decertification hearing. The waiting period for a decertification hearing can range from several months to a year. Act 33 results in hundreds of teenagers spending significant periods of time in adult jails even if their case will eventually be transferred to juvenile court. Young people in adult jails and prisons are significantly more likely to be abused by guards, to be assaulted by other prisoners, and to attempt to harm themselves than youth in juvenile facilities. Studies have shown also that time spent in an adult jail makes a young person under 18 more likely to be rearrested in the future. Trying young people directly as adults is bad for young people, bad for public safety, and bad for all of us.
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