Study Details Benefits to Missouri of “Raise the Age”
By Brian Evans, State Campaigns Director
Over the past two years, four states have “Raised the Age” of criminal court jurisdiction to 18 – Louisiana and South Carolina in 2016, and New York and North Carolina earlier this year. While these recently passed laws have yet to go into effect, there are only five states that still charge all 17 year olds as adults no matter how minor the offense. Missouri, which has had a reputation for being a leader in juvenile justice because of its “Missouri model” of youth detention facilities, is one of those five states.
There is every indication that raising the age to 18 has widespread support in the Show Me State, but resistance from the agencies that would be tasked with implementing this significant change, and uncertainties about the costs of that implementation, has preventing “Raise the Age” legislation from gaining much momentum.
But this month, in anticipation of Missouri’s 2018 legislative session, things are starting to move. On December 1, Republican House Representative Nick Schroer, pre-filed HB 1255, a “Raise the Age” bill that would go into effect January 1, 2021. An on December 5, at a panel discussion of the issue at Missouri State University in Springfield, a study [LINK] of the economic impacts of raising the age was released.
The study, authored by Dr. David M. Mitchell, the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State, concludes that there are significant savings to be achieved by raising the age to 18. The savings, which more than offset the initial investments required to effectively implement the change, are due to reduced recidivism that results from keeping young people out of the adult system, and to increased earning (and tax paying) potential of 17 year olds kept in the juvenile system.
The consistent decline in juvenile crime rates, which are less than half what they were less than 10 years ago, suggests that now is an optimal time to push for this kind of reform. The success of states that have recently implemented this change, at relatively low cost, should also encourage Missourians that now is the time to “Raise the Age”.
Some up-front investment, particularly in effective diversion programs that will help to keep the juvenile detention population shrinking, is certainly warranted, but the long-term savings and other social benefits of raising the age should be a compelling motivator in a state that has prided itself on being a juvenile justice leader.