In the State of Mississippi, a person must be at least 10 years old before entering the adjudication system.
Juvenile court representatives usually refer the child to social services or community-based agencies that help the child learn from their mistakes. Factors such as the crime’s severity, the public’s safety, the child’s needs and overall accountability dictate whether the child should experience the same consequences as an adult.
When should a child experience adult consequences?
The National Governor’s Association recently reported that in Mississippi, a child can be as young as 13 and still stand trial as an adult. This corresponds with New York, North Carolina, Illinois and New Hampshire. The same study quotes Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as arguing that children need education and rehabilitation, not punishment.
Age boundaries in Mississippi
Mississippi’s Senate Bill 2282 states that no one under the age of 12 can enter the state “training school” (also known as juvenile detention). In addition, the only time a child will enter the training school is when they receive a felony conviction. Even then, the judge must balance both the best interest of the child and the needs of the community. The child still must have access to their parents, and the training school must provide appropriate healthcare, education, job opportunities, socialization, mental health guidance, counseling and substance abuse treatment.
When professionals come together, show respect for the growing child and create opportunities for second chances, the justice system demonstrates equal representation under the law and a commitment to “the least of these.”