Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ACLU says, Down with the Juvenile Curfew

We can usually count on the ACLU to be the voice of reason. The following comes from the ACLU press room concerning a recent enforced under-18 curfew in Hartford, Connecticut, after a series of shootings.

Lifting the curfew is not putting children in any more danger than they already are being out during the day, and is nothing but discrimination justified by paranoia--regardless of whatever good intentions there were in putting it in place.
ACLU Opposes Planned Hartford Juvenile Curfew
ACLU Press Room

Announcement of a curfew for juveniles in Hartford drew an immediate response from the ACLU of Connecticut: Abandon the idea. Such ordinances are a violation of fundamental rights of innocent people, the ACLU says.

Mayor Eddie Perez, with his police chief at his side, announced the curfew Monday in the wake of a series of shootings in the city. Such a curfew has long been on the books in Hartford, but its enforcement has been set begin Thursday.

The problem is real, the ACLU says, but a blanket curfew barring all those under 18 from being on the streets from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. is the wrong solution.

David McGuire, staff attorney for the ACLU-CT, compiled a list of reasons such curfews have proven ineffective, and have been struck down when challenged in court:
  • Curfews violate constitutional rights of due process and freedom of expression, by giving the police unlimited discretion to arrest young people engaged in wholly legitimate and constitutionally protected activities or speech. The planned Hartford action is an assault on the basic constitutional rights of thousands of young people in the city.
  • The police have every tool they need, without curfew, to protect and enforce laws involving youth. Day or night, they always have the authority to stop young people based on reasonable suspicion that they are violating a law or posing a danger to themselves or others.
  • Curfews, at their core, essentially place all persons of a particular demographic under “house arrest” for the actions of a minority. A curfew criminalizes all youth, regardless of whether they are breaking any laws or posing any threat. The proper response to juvenile crime is instead to arrest the criminals.
  • The public would never accept this approach for adults. Young people who have parental consent must enjoy the same right to freedom of movement as adults.
  • A curfew usurps parental discretion.

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