Washington State Senate Bill 5122

Senate Bill 5122 looks to change the laws around the juvenile court. In its original form, the bill would have increased the maximum age under jurisdiction in juvenile court to 19. It also raised the minimum age that someone is presumed capable of committing most crimes from 8 to 13. It would also allow kids sentenced for a crime to serve time up to age 22 in a juvenile detention center, rather than an adult prison, among other things. The bill was intended to keep as many kids as possible in the juvenile system during their formative years, as opposed to sending them to the adult system.

However, some of the language in the bill raised concerns among our group the bill that was too similar to the failed policies of the 1990s ‘tough on crime’ era, including three strikes laws. Our campaign researched and analyzed the impact the bill would have on community, and determined that it would have ended up sending larger numbers of BIack and Brown kids to adult court and/or prison. Though the bill was problematic and did not ended auto-decline, we came to the decision it still contained enough positive changes that is was worth our support, if these problematic areas could be removed.

We drafted a letter to the sponsoring senators expressing our concern over the problematic language, and relayed to them we would support the bill if these passages were struck. We were able to get 12 organizations to endorse this effort, and sent the letter to the sponsors of the bill. 

In response to the letter our campaign sent, Senator Jeannie Darneille introduced the change to the bill that struck, and therefore changed, a large portion of the bill as our campaign and allies had requested. Though the bill does not go far enough, it was still a victory for community and our newly formed campaign. The bill still raises the age at which children are presumed capable of committing a crime from 8 to 13 years old, but now includes creating a task force, which will include community, that will look into expanding juvenile jurisdiction to include 18 and 19 year olds.

While this bill is yet another step in working towards justice for our kids, and much necessary work remains to transform these systems, we are officially endorsing this bill and requesting our partners and allies encourage their bases to do the same. However, we have been clear with the legislators that while we are supporting this bill, we expect and will be working towards passing a bill to abolish auto-decline to end children in the adult system for good in the 2022 session. So when contacting representatives, please be sure to both advocate for SB5122 and include the demand that auto-decline and kids in the adult system be abolished next session.

Our Demands

Pass SB 5122 in 2021 Session

Pass Bill to Abolish Auto Decline in 2022 Session

*See sample letter below and email your reps

We’re not using automated contact forms; they are easier, but they are also easier to ignore because contacting our representatives is far more effective when we contact them individually. You can use this sample email as a guide, but also feel free to change it, or write your own. Make sure you send one to both your State House Rep and State Senator. See the link for their contact information

Subject: Yes to SB5122, Support Bill to Auto-Decline in 2022

Dear (My State Senator/ My State House Rep)

I am writing to urge you to support SB5122, regarding the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Sending children to adult court and prison is a cruel, racist practice. This bill, while not the solution we ultimately need, is a step in the right direction. I also urge you to support forthcoming legislation in the 2022 session that will end sending kids to adult courts and prison, or Auto-Decline, for good.

Science is clear that young peoples’ brains are still in development until age 26. We know that because of this, young offenders are especially successful in rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration. The incarceration system has been proven to be a failure to everyone: offenders, victims, community, public safety and tax payers. We need rehabilitative justice alternatives, not the failed policies of incarceration, and especially for children. Please work with and support community in enacting and funding these necessary changes.  


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