MASON CITY, Iowa - A recent report from the Campaign for Youth Justice and the University of Iowa's Community Empowerment Law Project is calling for and offering recommendations to Iowa lawmakers to change the state's laws on youth under 18 receiving adult court convictions for simple misdemeanors.
According to Iowa law, youth as young as 10 years old can be prosecuted in adult court as youthful offenders, and those as young as 14 may be prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as an adult for any sort of public offense. The report also noted of over 12,000 adult court convictions of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 in Iowa in 2017, according to the Division of Criminal & Juvenile Justice Planning.
The report, titled "Childhood Convicted", is recommending four policy changes: collect data on how youth are treated in the adult system, limit the types of offenses eligible for transfer, end statutory exclusion, and keeping youth under 18 out of adult jails pre-trial.
Lana Schaefer is an advocate with CASA, who works with children who are in the foster system due to a variety of factors, including abuse and neglect. When she was a teacher, she notes that some of her former students would end up being incarcerated as adults, and wants the laws to change.
"As far as I am concerned personally, all we're doing is teaching them the wrong things to do. They should not be sent in as an adult. That's not what our world is about."