New Report Highlights Shift in Policy to "Raise The Age" of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
Michigan has been working for a decade to adopt more effective youth justice approaches that have prepared the system to absorb 17-year-old youth, keep costs in check, and enhance public safety.
WASHINGTON (March 7, 2017)—A new report shows that over the past decade, half of the states that had previously excluded all 16- and/or 17-year-olds from juvenile court based solely on their age absorbed these young people into the youth justice system without significantly increasing taxpayer costs, and the number of youth in the adult system nationwide was nearly cut in half.
According to a new report issued today by the Justice Policy Institute, "Raising the Age: Shifting to a Safer and More Effective Juvenile Justice System", while there were dire predictions that states that “raised the age” would be overwhelmed, by shifting to better practices, these states kept young people safe, enhanced public safety, and effectively managed taxpayer dollars.
Since 2007, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have all passed laws to raise the age. In 2017, each of the seven remaining states—Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—are considering some type of legislative proposal that would raise the age from 17 and/or 16 years of age to 18 years of age.
Similar to the kinds of strategies that were used in other states that raised the age, Michigan has been working for a decade to adopt more effective youth justice approaches that have prepared the system to absorb 17-year-old youth, keep costs in check, and enhance public safety.
The JPI report shows that when a young person is arrested or adjudicated, he or she is more likely to reoffend and be rearrested. Michigan counties have diversion models they can build on to divert more young people from the justice system, and instead, can connect a youth to a service if that is what they need, which can serve as models to help manage 17-year-olds in the community.
Because the state and counties have partnered for decades to reallocate resources and change policies to reduce reliance facilities, the Michigan youth justice systems have models that can help them manage raising the age without seeing costs rise significantly. Michigan counties have strategies to reduce young people’s length of stay while involved with the youth justice system, which can be modeled to help communities free up the capacity to serve 17-year-old youth.
States that raised the age avoided fears that the youth justice system would be overwhelmed for a number of reasons, including that the fiscal impact statements offered by stakeholders in Connecticut, Illinois, and Massachusetts were limited and did not project true expenditure trends. Youth justice systems also managed the change by shifting to more cost effective practices that are more likely to help a young person move past delinquency and reduce the chances a youth will reoffend, including reduced reliance on confinement.
A major reason why states are raising the age is to keep youth safe.
Youth incarcerated in an adult facility are the group most at risk of sexual assault. Sheriffs, along with juvenile and adult corrections officials have called on lawmakers to raise the age to keep youth safe and avoid building new adult jails and prisons, and comply with federal laws, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
About Justice Policy Institute:
JPI is dedicated to reducing the use of incarceration and the justice system by promoting fair and effective policies. For more JPI publications on the justice system, visit www.justicepolicy.org.