Seven years ago, California voters approved the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act, promoted as a way to target hard-core gang members and juvenile offenders who commit heinous violent crimes. Prosecutors could try juveniles accused of these crimes in adult court without first arguing the case in front of a juvenile judge. The authors said the initiative would free the juvenile court from dealing with “violent and serious repeat offenders” with little chance of rehabilitation. Sixty-two percent of the voters approved Prop 21.
But what seemed simple in the ballot box has translated into sharp differences in how teens accused of serious crimes are punished from one jurisdiction to another, reports the Orange County Register. Prosecutors in Orange County charge more youths as adults using this discretionary power than those in any other county, prosecuting teens as adults nine times more often than Los Angeles. In San Francisco, prosecutors have never charged a juvenile as an adult under these rules.