Raising the age means including 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. Right now, Missouri is one of only 6 states that exclude all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system.
In Missouri, 17-year-olds can’t vote, serve on juries, join the military, or buy a lottery ticket. They aren’t treated like adults. There’s only one exception: Kids are automatically charged, jailed, and imprisoned as adults the day they turn 17, even for the most minor offenses.
Raising the age will improve public safety, save taxpayer dollars, treat families fairly, and get better outcomes for vulnerable young people.
Raising the Age...
Will Keep Our Neighborhoods Safe
- Adults leaving our state prisons are three times more likely to reoffend and go back to prison than youth leaving our juvenile facilities. Our juvenile justice system is better at holding kids accountable and getting them on the right track.
- Raising the age will not keep 17-year-olds accused of serious offenses from being prosecuted as adults. But 93% of 17-year-olds arrested in Missouri in 2015 were accused of offenses that involve neither violence nor weapons. They should be held accountable in the juvenile justice system.
- Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system has been shown to reduce reoffending by 34%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Will Save Taxpayer Dollars
- States that raised the age have downsized their juvenile justice systems and lowered both short-term and long-term costs as a result of decreased reoffending.
- Missouri has room in its juvenile justice system for 17-year-olds without spending new dollars. Over the last ten years, juvenile courts are handling 56% fewer delinquency cases; the total number of days spent by youth in pretrial detention has fallen by 57.9%; and the number of youth going into secure custody each year has fallen by 46.9%.
Has Bipartisan Support
- Across the country, raising the age has had broad, bipartisan support. Last year, conservative former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich published an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch urging Missouri to pass raise the age legislation.
- In 2016, Louisiana and South Carolina both raised the age with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.
- Conservative and libertarian groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, Right on Crime, and the Prison Fellowship have all endorsed raising the age. Here's a 2017 op-ed by Marc Levin, the director of Right on Crime, explaining why Missouri should raise the age.
Respects Parents' Rights
- When 17-year-olds are arrested as adults, their parents do not need to be informed of the arrest and do not have a right to be involved in the court process. But in juvenile court, parents play an important role in their children’s cases.
Will Strengthen Our Workforce & Economy
- Opportunities vanish for 17-year-olds who are treated like adults. A criminal record creates barriers to education, employment, housing, and joining the military.
Will Protect Our Sheriffs
- The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires 17-year-olds to be kept completely separate in adult jails. Non-compliance exposes sheriffs to liability and puts Missouri at risk of losing federal funds. Keeping kids out of adult jails means sheriffs will not have to retrofit their facilities at enormous expense.
Will Protect Our Children
- 17-year-olds don’t belong in adult jails and prisons. Youth housed in adult jails are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile detention. Youth in adult prisons face high risks of violence and sexual assault, and they often spend up to 23 hours every day in solitary confinement, leading to physical and psychological harm.
Results from other states that have Raised the Age
- Youthful offending continued to drop in Connecticut after the age was raised from 16 to 18. In fact, Connecticut’s crime czar has attributed some of the state’s public safety improvements in recent years to raising the age.
- The same thing happened in Illinois, where raising the age for misdemeanors was so successful as a crime reduction strategy that the legislature recently raised the age for all offenses.
- And in Mississippi, the juvenile jail and prison population actually decreased after raise the age was passed in 2010
Resources & References
- Raise the Age Missouri’s 1-Page Fact Sheet
- Frequently Asked Questions: What Does Raising the Age Mean for Missouri
- Senate Bill 40: Senate Wallingford’s Raise the Age Bill
- House Bill 274: Representative Schroer’s Raise the Age Bill
- Fact Sheet: The Impact of Raise the Age in States Across the Country
- Fact Sheet: Why Children Should Not Be in Adult Jails and Prisons
- Model Resolution: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Resolution in Support of Raising the Age