Sixteen - and 17-year-olds who are charged with murder or commit other felonies after already being locked up for serious crimes should automatically be shoved into the adult judicial system.

If found guilty, they should go to adult prisons.So decided a legislative interim committee Wednesday when it unanimously approved a bill that would make such a change. "If they commit adult crimes, they should do adult time," said Board of Pardons member Michael Sibbett.

Sibbett said something must be done with the repeat juvenile violent offender, giving as an example an 18-year-old who recently came before his board. As a juvenile under 18, the youth had 141 juvenile offenses and had been locked up in a juvenile prison four times. Finally, just after he turned 18, he "committed a very violent aggravated rape," said Sibbett.

What does the justice system tell the woman he raped? "How could we have got this kid's attention?" One good way is to push him into the adult system after he committed his first felony after he'd gotten out of juvenile prison.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, would automatically push into the adult system 16- and 17-year-olds who are charged with murder or who are charged with a felony and have already been locked up once in a juvenile prison.

Rep. Lee Ellertson, R-Orem, worried about what could happen to a juvenile who committed a violent crime, was locked up in a juvenile prison, but had been clean and good for several years.

"What if he makes a mistake and forges a check, for example. (Because of the size of the forged check) it's a felony and under this (new) law he could be pushed into the adult system and sent to the Point of the Mountain where he'd have to associate with some pretty hard fellows."

Replied Hillyard, who is a criminal defense attorney: "I can't imagine a district judge sending a kid to prison under those circumstances." District judges would still be able to sentence a juvenile, certified as an adult, to probation or time in a county jail, just as they can do that for adult criminals now.

The juvenile justice system is expensive and forgiving for a purpose - it's aimed at rehabilitation, said Camille Anthony, director of Gov. Mike Leavitt's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

It costs $140 a day to keep a kid in juvenile prison. For the hard-core repeat juvenile offender, that is a poor way to spend the money. Rather, those few troubled kids should be pushed into the adult system, freeing up space for less criminally minded youths on whom the $140-a-day can be better spent, she said.

For the same felony, a juvenile spends about eight months locked up in a juvenile prison, but an adult criminal spends about eight years in prison, said Sibbett. Making it clear to 16- and 17-year-olds locked up in juvenile prisons that if they commit another felony when they get out they're looking at 10 times the time behind bars "will get their attention," he said.