Missouri Can't Be Last!

Two weeks ago, New York state passed legislation raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction.  Starting October 1, 2019, children younger than 18 will be included in New York's juvenile justice system -- not pushed prematurely into adult jails, courts, and prisons.

Now, there are only six states left that prosecute all 17-year-olds as adults.  And Missouri is one of them.

In the other states that haven't yet raised the age, there's real momentum for change.  On April 20, Texas' House of Representatives passed raise the age legislation.  In North Carolina, bipartisan raise the age legislation has garnered support from the Democratic governor and law enforcement groups. 

Missouri, whose juvenile justice system once led the nation, has a chance this year to join the near-unanimous trend of states who know that raising the age improve public safety, saves money, and keeps kids safe.  House Bill 274, Missouri's Raise the Age bill, was overwhelmingly supported in committee, and the fight now moves to the House floor as the legislative session draws to a close.  

Will we do the right thing?  Or will we be the last in the nation to take a common-sense step towards safety and justice?

Missouri Juvenile Corrections Expert Calls for Raising the Age

Nobody in Missouri -- maybe nobody in the country -- knows how to run a safe and cost-effective juvenile justice system better than Mark Steward.  And Mark Steward wants to raise the age.

Raising the age means including 17-year-olds in juvenile court instead of automatically prosecuting every arrested 17-year-old as an adult.  

For 17 years, Mark was the head of Missouri's Division of Youth Services -- the state agency that runs Missouri's juvenile justice facilities.  Under his leadership, DYS became nationally-known for innovative programs that reduce re-offending.  Now, Mark is the director of the Missouri Youth Services Institute, a nonprofit consulting firm that provides advice and technical assistance to juvenile justice systems across the country.  He's a seasoned expert who understands what it takes to operate a juvenile prison and improve public safety while turning children's lives around.  

Now, in a story by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, Mark is urging legislators to raise the age.  He says: "[T]he benefits are so overwhelmingly good and proven that if they approve this, there’d never be a moment of doubt that they made the right decision."

The story looks at how Texas and Missouri -- two of just seven holdout states  -- are working towards raising the age in their current legislative sessions.  43 states, including all the states that borders Missouri, have improved public safety and spent taxpayer money responsibly by including 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system.  

There's a national consensus that raising the age is the right thing to do -- and Mark Steward, Missouri's foremost juvenile corrections expert, thinks Missouri should get with the program: "At this point," he says, "I think it’s pretty universally accepted that the best place for a 17-year-old is not to be in an adult system."

Read the full story here.

National Report Shows How Missouri Can Raise the Age to Curb Crime & Cut Costs

On March 7, the Justice Policy Institute released a report that looks at 10 years of data to show how states across the country have raised the age -- including 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system -- while reducing crime and saving taxpayer money.

Just last year, Louisiana and South Carolina raised the age.  Now, Missouri is one of only 7 states that automatically send every 17-year-old to criminal court, even for the most minor offenses.  

In 2017, the Missouri legislature is considering House Bill 274 and Senate Bill 40, which would bring most 17-year-olds into the juvenile justice system while still allowing the most serious offenders to be prosecuted in criminal court.

The report shows that states have consistently overestimated the costs and underestimated the savings that come from raising the age.  For instance: Connecticut raised the age from 16 to 18, and now actually spends LESS on juvenile justice than it did before raising the age.  

Raising the age is a good investment because holding 17-year-olds accountable in juvenile court ensures that they get the services and supports they need to turn their lives around. And kids who finish school and get good jobs stop committing crimes, which builds the economy and saves taxpayer money.

The full report is here.

The executive summary is here.

Raise the Age at the House of Representatives on 2/28!

HB 274, the Raise the Age bill in the House of Representatives, will be heard at 5 pm on 2/28 in the House Judiciary Committee at the Capitol in Jefferson City.  The hearing will be in House Hearing Room 1.

Please join us at the committee hearing!  It's important for everyone to stand up,  be counted, and show your support for common-sense justice reform that will curb crime, keep kids and communities safe, and save money!

If you have questions about where to go, or what to do when you get there, email us and we'll be happy to help!  

Raise the Age Supported by Right on Crime in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch!

This morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a strong op-ed by Marc Levin, the director of the Right on Crime initiative, urging Missouri to pass Raise the Age legislation!

It's worth reading the whole article on the Post-Dispatch's website, as Levin does a terrific job of explaining why conservatives should support raising the age, but here's a key quote:  "Adult prosecution takes young people who are already troubled and puts still more obstacles in the way of their success. It is a government program that creates more crime, reduces the number of employable young people in our state and causes misery to youth and families."

43 states  -- red and blue, South and North, big and small -- have raised the age to curb crime, save taxpayer dollars, and help kids succeed.  Why shouldn't Missouri be next?

Raise the Age Missouri Attracts Bipartisan Support!

After a terrific hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30, legislation to raise the age in Missouri is attracting strong bipartisan support!

First came an endorsement on the website of the Show Me Institute, one of Missouri's foremost think tanks, with a strong conservative and libertarian bent.  Citing cost savings, parents' rights, and increased safety for vulnerable young people, the article concluded that raising the age "would be a welcome change."  You can read the whole thing here.

Today, the Missouri Times ran an interview with Representative Nick Schroer, the author of HB 274, the House legislation that seeks to raise the age.  Read Representative Schroer's entire interview, which explains why principled Constitutional Conservatives should support raising the age as a common-sense criminal justice reform measure to improve public safety, strengthen our workforce, and protect children and families. 

We're gaining bipartisan momentum, and there's more to come!  This is the year to #raisetheageMO!

If you want to congratulate Representative Schroer and get the word out, you can click here to tweet:  

  • @Nickbschroer what a terrific interview in the @MissouriTimes about #raisetheageMO -- thanks for being a champion for safe communities!

 

Raise the Age Legislation Gaining Momentum

In the new year, Raise the Age legislation is gaining momentum in North Carolina, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin.  Last year, the legislatures in Louisiana and South Carolina overwhelming passed legislation to include 17-year-olds in their juvenile justice systems.  Now, 43 states include 17-year-olds in their juvenile justice systems.  

Missouri’s juvenile justice system has become a national model for rehabilitating vulnerable young people.  Our juvenile system can hold young people accountable while helping them get back on track – in fact, people coming out of our adult prisons and jails reoffend and go back to prison three times as often as kids coming out of our juvenile facilities.  So why wouldn’t we follow the national trend and rehabilitate 17-year-olds in our juvenile justice system whenever we can?

Every state that borders Missouri has taken the common-sense step of improving public safety and saving taxpayer dollars by raising the age.  In 2017, we have a chance to do the right thing, too.  SB 40, by Senator Walllingford, and HB 274, by Representative Schroer, will raise the age and help us hold young people accountable in age-appropriate ways.

We’ve been a national leader in juvenile justice.  Do we really want to be the last state to do the right thing?  

Legislation Filed to Raise the Age in Missouri

SB 40 and HB 274, legislation to raise the age in Missouri, is now filed! The Raise  the Age Missouri coalition is grateful to Senator Wayne Wallingford and Representative Nick Schroer for leading the way towards a common-sense solution that will curb crime, save taxpayer dollars, and treat families fairly.  

You can tweet your thanks to our legislative champions:

Senator Wallingford: @WallingfordMO

@WallingfordMO thank you for leading the way to #RaisetheAgeMo -- #SB40 will will keep our kids and communities safe! Tweet this.

Representative Schroer: @NickBSchroer

@NickBSchroer thank you for leading the way to #RaisetheAgeMo -- #HB274 will will keep our kids and communities safe!  Tweet this.