At 18, a person is no longer a juvenile
In 1974, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act, which had four goals, including the segregation between juvenile and adult offenders.
Society rightly fears juveniles will fall prey to adults in prison.
But what about adults in juvenile detention centers? One-quarter of the residents in juvenile detention centers in West Virginia are adults, much to the displeasure of Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn, who is overseeing litigation by Mountain Justice to reform the state's youthful offenders system.
"I'd be shocked if you could find someone to say that's a good idea," Aboulhosn said of putting adult sex offenders in the same facility as juveniles.
"It's a bad idea. It's a terrible idea. It's horrific to think that that's going on."
Patrick Ryan Randolph, 20, faces a charge of third-degree sexual assault for forcing a 15-year-old offender to perform a sex act at the juvenile center in Salem. After sending the man to regional jail, state officials had to return Randolph to the juvenile facility under state law.
This is one of many problems about safety in the system.
State law requires judges to control people who commit crimes as juveniles until they are 21.
Legislators need to change that law and make juvenile detention centers for juveniles only. This would make it easier to protect youths from adult predators.
Just as juveniles do not belong in adult prisons, adults do not belong in a juvenile center.