Handling older juveniles accused of serious crimes
Most states try to certify older juveniles arrested for serious crimes as adults. "You do an adult crime, you do adult time," as the saying goes.
The human brain's moral centers don't reach full adult maturity until the early or mid-20s. This is reflected in our law and legal history.
Until the Vietnam era, some states would not let you vote until you turned 21. The logic was that young adults were too immature or ill-informed to vote responsibly.
While we now give anyone old enough to serve in the military without his parent's consent the right to vote, we have taken away the right to buy or consume alcohol without parental supervision. We did this because we saw that way too many people under 21 were using alcohol irresponsibly and killing or maiming themselves and others as a result. Prior to the laws being changed, people over 21 drank irresponsibly and killed people at a significantly lower rate than those under 21.
Knowing this, we need to change our court system so those convicted of crimes done before age 18 are at least offered a path to rehabilitation and, once their complete sentence, parole, and a possible short period after parole is complete without any new crimes committed as an adult, the assurance that their records will be sealed.
At least one state has implimented the option of a "determinate sentence" for youth over a certain age but young enough to be tried as a juvenile. Here is how it works:
* The prosecutor decides not to ask for an adult trial OR a judge turns him down
* The youth pleads guilty or is convicted and given either a "determinate sentence" of a stated number of years or decades, an "indeterminate" (traditional) youth sentence which means he gets out by a certain age or sooner, or a non-prison sentence such as home confinement or youth probation.
Assuming he gets a "determinate sentence" and is not yet old enough to be transfered to an adult prison:
* The youth goes to a youth correctional facility with a focus on rehabilitation
* If the youth serves enough time to be paroled before becoming a young adult, he MAY be paroled
* Under some situations, the youth may be paroled or discharged when he becomes a young adult
* If the youth is not paroled or discharged at this time, he is transferred to adult prison
* The now-adult inmate will eventually become eligible for parole if he his not already
* The inmate or parolee eventually serves his stated sentence and parole and is discharged
* The juvenile record is sealed
That last item is key. It's the "you can start your life over now, the mistakes of your immature-brained youth are forgiven" element that any society with a moral compass will have as part of its juvenile justice law.