Since Tom Yates’ eight-year-old daughter was found strangled last year and a 12-year-old boy was accused of killing her, the Carrollton, Ga., resident has been pressing legislators to enact “Amy’s Law”–tougher sentences for children who commit violent crimes, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Under his proposal, children as young as 10 who commit murder or other violent crimes could be incarcerated in a juvenile facility until they’re 21. “Amy’s Law” will be filed as a bill next month for the Legislature to consider when it convenes in January, said Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton).
Critics say the measure focuses on punishing, rather than rehabilitating, children. “We pay a lot of attention to punishing children and finding ways we can lock them up for longer and longer periods of time,” said Normer Adams, executive director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children. “But we’re doing nothing to identify those children who are at risk of committing serious crimes and doing very little to ensure that those children get the kind of care that they need in order to keep them from hurting other kids, to prevent them from committing crimes.” Georgia’s law is clear that children under 13 may not be tried as adults, and the proposed Amy’s Law wouldn’t change that. “Children of that age are not well served by being treated as adults,” Hamrick said. “That’s been a major discussion from the beginning, is where do you draw the line for the adult system?”