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 five holdout states  -- are working towards raising the age in their current legislative sessions.  45 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.