SALT LAKE CITY – Young kids in Utah, 11-years-old and younger, would not be prosecuted for most crimes under a new bill that recently passed a Utah House committee.
Young offenders would be given mental health counseling instead of heading to court.
Rep. Lowry Snow (R-St. George) believes kids need to be treated differently than adults.
“Children are different. They haven’t developed to the point an adult [is], and they deserve a system that recognizes that difference. That focuses on treatment, that focuses on rehabilitation,” Snow said.
Brett Peterson, the director of Utah’s Juvenile Justice Services, says most young children who are arrested are dealing with unresolved trauma.
“This ensures that we can assertively and aggressively provide treatment that we need for a child based on their individual needs without the detriments of prosecution and incarceration,” Peterson said.
Peterson also worried that young kids in Utah who commit lower level crimes sometimes pick up bad habits from older kids in Juvenile Hall.
Young children who commit more serious crimes like murder could still be prosecuted, but prosecutors would also be able to review more cases before making a recommendation.
Fewer than 75 elementary school aged children are arrested in Utah every year.
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