Colorado State Representative Claire Levy is sponsoring a bill that would return a small modicum of control to judges in Direct File cases, according to this article from the Boulder Daily Camera. The bill is a new version of one vetoed in 2008. It would raise the age at which a child can be charged as an adult to 16 and give defense attorneys the ability to ask a judge to reverse Direct File charges. These common sense controls are already in place in other states that allow direct file, and if they even prevent one child from falling victim to a DA’s political ambition than they are a good idea. However, and this is key, the bill misses the point. The problem with Direct File is not the age at which it can be applied. Direct file is simply WRONG. While Representative Levy’s bill is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t over turn direct file.
It is wrong to build a legal system that pursues vengeance over compassion. It is wrong to hold a child who has been physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by his parents (such as John Caudle) to the same standard as a fully grown mentally healthy adult. It is wrong to disregard the mental, emotional, and physical differences between children and adults. It is wrong to think that society, which has a vested interest in ensuring the safety of all children, should not actively seek to protect children from abusive situations.
The logic of Direct File is this: a juvenile, no matter what heinous abuse and/or neglect he has suffered, should still comport himself like an adult when it comes to confronting his abusers. There are too many contradictions in this to even offer a complete list, but here are a few:
- police often hesitate to remove minors from their homes
- adolescents are not expected to act like adults in any other capacity
- an abused child never had the opportunity to develop a healthy view of the world, so how could that child behave like a normal healthy adult?
Direct File simply sweeps these, and the myriad of other questions under the rug of social ignorance and treats children who have had tragic lives as intentional criminal masterminds. Supporters of Direct File like to argue that these kids are just bad apples who need to be locked up before they commit another crime. No doubt it is easy to view the world through such one dimensional and rose colored lenses. In reality, however, those children were not born evil — they were abused and neglected until they lashed out. Should we now write them off permanently? Without even trying to heal the mental and emotional scars of trauma that cause the violence?
In the final analysis, Representative Levy’s bill is a nice idea, but only as a stop gap measure while the ultimate goal of ending the evil of Direct File is pursued.