Don’t Prosecute Children as Adults

Alabama Department of Youth Services

Target: Governor Rick Scott

Goal: Allow judge to review or reverse prosecutor’s decision to try child as an adult

Florida has a troubling trend of prosecuting children as adults in the state, where many of the children’s offenses are often non-violent in nature, but they are made to suffer long standing consequences. Every year, hundreds of children are prosecuted as adults, and in doing so, these children are psychologically and emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. Tell the governor of Florida to allow presiding judges to review or reverse a prosecutor’s decision to try a child as an adult.

In Florida, prosecutors have full discretion to prosecute a child as an adult if they use the direct file stature. The presiding judge of the case does not have the chance to review or even reverse the decision, no matter the circumstances of the trial. Out of the 1,500 cases of children charged as adults between the years 2012 to 2013, more than 95 percent of these cases were brought by prosecutors under the direct file stature.  Children cannot vote, drink, or buy cigarettes under Florida law, but they can be tried as an adult without the judge evaluating the decision.

Children who do commit crimes should be held accountable and punished for their crimes, but prosecuting them as adults does more harm than good. Trying a child in an adult court does nothing to raise security or safety in a community; instead it produces higher rates of recidivism for offenders than for just those that were kept in the juvenile system. Children are less mature in their judgment and self-control in comparison to adults; this fact should be taken in consideration during a trial. The juvenile system stresses on the potential to change, and focuses on rehabilitating the child. In an adult prison, this concept is thrown out the window and it focuses primarily on punishing the adult. In this environment, children do not change and instead respond with fear and violence.

Children who have been prosecuted as an adult will have the felony record on file for the rest of their lives. It bars and discriminates them from employment, and they lose the right to vote for the rest of their lives. With 60 percent of crimes committed by children, many of them are petty and nonviolent offenses. Some of these crimes included stealing two laptops from a classroom, breaking into a home to steal a printer, a 25 year sentence for criminal mischief and assault, and a wrongful arrest that barred one child from participating in a fire fighting academy.

It’s obvious that the justice system in Florida is failing and unfairly targets children. Sign this petition and demand the governor to change the law to allow judges to review and reverse a prosecutor’s decision. It is unfair that a child can be tried as an adult for petty crimes, and have it affect them for the rest of their lives.


Dear Governor Rick Scott,

I am writing to urge you to change the law so a child does not get tried as an adult for petty and nonviolence crimes. At present, if a prosecutor decides to use the direct file stature, a judge cannot review or reverse the decision. If a child is prosecuted as an adult, the felony charges stay on their file for the rest of the lives, preventing them from seeking employment and voting.

I do not see this as fair, since a child already cannot vote, drink, or buy cigarettes. I believe that if a child is tried as an adult, it should be done when a truly heinous crime is committed. Surely you do not believe this is right? Please change the law so our children can be rehabilitated into contributing citizens to our society.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rivers A. Langley via Wikimedia

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