A bill would require that persons 16 years of age or older be charged, arrested, and tried for a felony offense for the use of a “dangerous instrument” against an employee of the Department of Youth Services or a juvenile detention center.
The bill, SB119, was brought up for a Senate vote on Tuesday. The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, said the intent of the bill was not to criminalize youth but to offer some protection to employees of juvenile detention facilities.
However, Sen. Bobby Singleton aired his criticisms of the bill, saying that he felt uncomfortable charging 16-year-olds as felons and removing the possibility of juveniles seeking Youthful Offender Status.
“This here bypasses the YO stage and takes them straight to the felony,” Singleton said. “This doesn’t really give them the ability to get YO.”
Singleton also added that a consequence of the bill could be to criminalize youth who are defending themselves from abuse in the detention centers.
Coleman-Madison agreed to table the bill so that the two senators could speak with legal experts and revise the legislation.