2020 State Ratings Report on Human Rights Protections for Children in the U.S. Justice System
Aubrey Edwards-Luce, First Focus Campaign for ChildrenChild Abuse & Neglect Child Rights Juvenile Justice
The advocacy organization Human Rights for Kids released its 2020 National State Ratings Report this week. The first-of-its-kind report evaluates how all 50 states and the District of Columbia support — or fail to support — the human rights of children in the justice system. The big takeaway: The vast majority of states have done almost nothing to protect and promote the human rights of children involved with the justice system.
After tabulating each state’s legislative protections for justice-involved youth across 12 categories, such as due process, the felony-murder rule, life without parole, transferring children to the adult criminal system, or housing sentenced youth with adults, Human Rights for Kids ranks states as human rights champions or human rights offenders. The worst offenders include Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming. The research also turns several commonly held beliefs on their heads. For instance, traditionally “blue” or “liberal states” including Maryland, Illinois, New York, Vermont, and Delaware are also among the worst states when it comes to protecting children’s rights in the justice system. Traditionally “red” or “conservative states” including Arkansas, North Dakota, and West Virginia have fared better, with legal frameworks that better reflect “the principle that there is no such thing as a throwaway child.”
To advance children’s human rights, First Focus Campaign for Children and our fellow advocates can promote bills that protect the Miranda rights of kids, scale back mandatory sentences, and get kids out of adult jails. And we can go further, by advocating for the U.S. adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.