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California Voters End “Direct File”

Posted in 2016, Campaigns Wednesday, 09 November 2016

By Brian Evans, State Campaign Director

Yesterday, outside the glare of the extremely contentious national election, California voters chose to end prosecutorial “direct file” by endorsing Prop 57. This result shows that the power of people to come together and do what is right for kids and communities is as strong as ever.

Prop 57 ends the “direct file” of juveniles, which is likely to keep many young people out of the adult system altogether. It also featured much discussed provisions for rehabilitation and early release of adults convicted of non-violent crimes. The vote was not close, with about 64% choosing to support the proposition.

Once this measure is implemented, California’s children will no longer be transferred to the adult criminal justice system by prosecutors without any judicial review.

This is a big win for youth justice, and California becomes the second state this year to end “direct file” by prosecutors (the Vermont legislature passed H. 95 earlier this year, eliminating the practice in that state). California voters apparently accepted the argument that, if children are to be tried in adult courts, it is vital that a neutral judge be empowered to make that decision, based on an independent review of the unique facts surrounding the case, and the child.

In twelve states, plus Washington, D.C., prosecutors still retain this discretionary power. Recent efforts in Florida and Colorado to restrict prosecutorial “direct file” have made significant progress, and it is to be hoped that Prop 57’s millions of “Yes” votes will inspire the other states to take the power to charge children as adults out of the hands of prosecutors.