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?