March, 1980 Home   Newsletters

April, 1980

May, 1980

Annual Meeting and Luncheon - "Where Do We Grow from Here?"
President's Message (Jean Ko)
To Note
By-Law Changes
Nominating Committee Report
Juvenile Justice at the Legislature
Proposed Budget 1980-81
Money for League
Annual Report of Elections & Vote Counting (Myrne Blomquist & Mary Ellen Reed)
Consensus Positions on City Council Study
Special Note to Our Less Active Members

Juvenile Justice at the Legislature

The Juvenile Justice bill receiving all the attention this year is SB 1851, drafted by Senator Dennis O'Connor's Judiciary Committee.

Billed as "comprehensive," its most dramatic and controversial sections automatically waive to adult court 16- and 17-year olds for certain offenses and offender history; and allow the Family Court to continue its jurisdiction over a young person up to age 22.

Other features of SB 1839/HB 2983 are retained (see Winter 1980 Leo Hana), and a number of other measures to improve Koolau have been added. Still missing is an effective monitoring of DSSH's operation of Koolau.

With July 1982 as the target date, the Judiciary Committee originally called for $5 million to provide immediate renovation at Koolau and long-range planning for further reorganization of the state's youth correctional facilities. However, Senator Ben Cayetano's Ways and Means Committee deleted all the proposed appropriations, saying it didn't have "an opportunity to assess the cost implications."

What is waiver of jurisdiction?

When a 16- or 17-year old is charged with a felony, the prosecutor may decide to seek a waiver of jurisdiction from the Family Court to the adult court. If so, a committee meets with the juvenile involved and tries to answer three basic questions:

  1. Is the child committable to a facility for the mentally ill or the mentally retarded?

  2. Is the child treatable within the available institutions in the state?

  3. Does the safety of the community require further judicial restraint beyond the person's 18th birthday?

Generally, a mentally ill or mentally retarded child would not be elibible for waiver. Nor would one who would benefit from treatment in Hawaii within the time left to his or her 18th birthday. A Family Court judge conducts a court hearing and makes a decision on the waiver.

A juvenile who is waived to adult court loses the confidentiality, relative informality and "treatment" orientation of the Family Court. S/he gains the right to bail and a jury trial, and probably faces a more severe system.

What is automatic waiver?

If the automatic waiver were to go into effect, a 16- or 17-year old charged with Felony A (murder, rape, kidnap) would go straight to the adult system. For lesser felony charges, the seriousness of his or her record, specifically spelled out in the bill, would determine if s/he would be sent to the adult court without a Family Court hearing.

Status of Juvenile Justice Bills

SB 1851

Passed the Senate, crossed over to House. No appropriations included.

HB 2983

Passed the House, crossed over to Senate. Identical to SB 1839, described in Winter 1980 Leo Hana.

The respective houses will now hold public hearings on each other's bills. A Conference Committee will hammer out the differences.

Should the Legislature adopt this automatic waiver section?

Those in favor say:

A large number of 16- to 17-year old offenders are hardcore, habitual violators who apparently have not benefitted from the non-criminal treatment provided in the Family Court law.

The Hawaii juvenile justice system is probably not responding adequately to the problems created by chronic juvenile offenders. There are repeat arrests "even though the juvenile justice system has had early and sometimes continuous contact with the juveniles; our response to repeat offenders as a class appears inconsistent and uncertain.

SLEPA recommended adoption of definitions which identify chronic juvenile offenders and guidelines as to how those chronic offenders should be treated.

The degree of the victims' suffering has no relation to the age of the perpetrator.

Circuit Courts' sentences for juveniles could include things other than imprisonment at Oahu Prison, such as Koolau custody during minority or probation.

The entire waiver process for a particular juvenile offender may take up to three years because there is usually an appeal.

Those opposed say:

Present waiver system can adequately address the situation of a hardcore youth committing a felony.

1970-79 experience is that only 4 of the 52 cases where Family Court denied waiver have gone on to accumulate criminal records as adults.

Often due to an overburdened adult system, the result of a similar, though stricter, law in New York has been an extremely low rate of conviction. Of 754 charged with felonies, 2 were convicted as charged and 10 pled guilty to lesser offenses.

Juveniles waived to adult court will gain the right to be released on bail. The Family Court, with its orientation to prevention, tended to hold more youthful offenders in detention for longer periods.

The rationale for treating juveniles and adults differently is that juveniles are still in the process of growing up and consequently do things that they probably won't do when they mature.

The Family Court needs this opportunity to "treat" the juvenile offender.

We should protect juveniles from being stigmatized by a public criminal record.

Intermediate appellate court may speed up appeal process.

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