Thousands of young people have been assaulted, raped, and traumatized as a result. Joe Sullivan was just 1 years old when he was charged as an adult with sexual assault and sentenced to die in prison. The law protects children younger than 14 because their brains are still developing-they have less judgment, maturity, and knowledge than adults, and kids under 14 are even less responsible and more vulnerable than older teens. But when a young child is accused of a crime, these legal protections vanish, allowing kids under 14 to be prosecuted in adult court and sentenced to adult prison, even for life. Their diminished understanding of rights, confusion about trial processes, limited language skills, and inadequate decision-making abilities puts them at great risk in the adult criminal justice system. Thirteen states have no minimum age for trying children as adults: Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Some states allow children to be prosecuted as adults at 10, 12, or 1 years old.
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