According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Direct file treats youth like “mini-adults” regardless of their actual culpability. The consequences of direct filing are irreversible. Once prosecutors direct file a juvenile in adult court, the law provides no mechanism for youth to return to juvenile court, regardless of their ultimate crime, conviction or their potential for rehabilitation. Once a youth is direct filed, the law requires their removal from juvenile detention centers to an adult jail until the case is resolved, often resulting in isolation and solitary confinement.
Once an adult trial begins, there is no going back. Because adult sentences are much harsher than juvenile sentences, the prosecutor in each case has, in effect, been allowed to choose a sentencing range for that child. That means that a sentence all the way up to life without parole is possible for anyone over the minimum charging age in their respective states. Despite recent Supreme Court decisions, across the country there are thousands of juveniles who have been tried and convicted as adults serving along adult prisoners. Many of them were convicted under “felony murder” statutes and handed a life sentence. In other words, they were in some way an accessory to a crime that resulted in someone’s death. While they didn’t actually commit any violent act themselves, they (unknowingly or knowingly) helped someone who did. For that, they have been judged to be irretrievably depraved and thrown away for life. That’s wrong and that’s why we are committed to advocating for fair and reasonable policies to rehabilitate young offenders.