Some states across the country are increasing the age at which juveniles are prosecuted as adults.
“Legislatures around the country are voting to treat 17-year-old offenders as juveniles,” the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) reported. “Louisiana acted last year, as did South Carolina, leaving just seven states nationwide that still prosecute all youth under 18 as adults,” the JJIE reported.
In April, New York became the latest state to make the decision not to charge juveniles as adults, leaving just six states that still prosecute such juveniles.
“New York, which had automatically treated even 16-year-olds as adults, enacted a sweeping overhaul that included raising the age to 18, effective next year,” the Exchange reported.
These changes are frustrating some lawmakers in states that haven’t made the change in how and when juvenile offenders are prosecuted.
Texas State Rep. Gene Wu said, “So many people here are saying, ‘Well, Texas is Texas, and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the country is doing.’ But it does, and we should do better on this issue.”
Wu has introduced a bill to increase the state’s age of criminal responsibility to 18.
“Last year Texas was one of nine states, and when we filed this bill there were seven, and now six,” Wu said. “North Carolina is probably going to raise the age this year and maybe Georgia, so we just keep falling behind, and there is no reason for it.”
Opponents in Texas argue, “Such measures would cost too much to implement, overrun juvenile justice court systems and could, potentially, leave dangerous youth on the street,” the Exchange reported.
Supporters of lowering the age point to extensive studies that show drastic reductions in recidivism rates and money saved for taxpayers.
“We have statistics showing that 30 percent of all children put into the juvenile system will not reoffend, will never become adult criminals,” said Wu.
“That is tangible. People can see … the savings when you aren’t going to have to keep putting more people into adult prisons, or take care of them when they can’t get a job or a home because they did something stupid as a 17-year-old kid.”
The most important reason to raise the age is because it is the moral thing to do for youth and society, Wu added.
PPI’s “Correctional Control: Incarceration and Supervision by State” issued on June 1, is the first report to aggregate data on all types of correctional control nationwide. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/50statepie.html