New Legislation Will Improve Public Safety, Save Taxpayer Dollars, and Result in Better Outcomes for Vulnerable Young People
WASHINGTON (May 11, 2018) - The Missouri General Assembly has voted to increase the age for automatically trying youth as adults from 17 to 18, and the legislation will now be headed to Governor Greitens for his signature, paving the way for criminal cases against youth who are under the age of 18 to begin in the juvenile court system.
Currently in Missouri, children are automatically charged, jailed, and imprisoned as adults the day they turn 17, even for the most minor offenses. Missouri is one of just five states that try 17-year-olds in adult courts. Before a young person can vote, serve on juries, join the military, or buy a lottery ticket — he or she can be arrested, tried and imprisoned as an adult in the state.
A similar proposal was approved by the House last year, but never made it through the Senate.
Missouri’s juvenile justice system has long been recognized nationally as a model program, and effectively provides alternatives to incarceration that maximize positive outcomes for youth. Under current law, 17 year olds who commit a crime enter the adult justice system even if their offenses are non-violent or misdemeanors, as is the case for the large majority of 17 year olds. These youth would be better served in Missouri’s well-respected juvenile system in the short and long term.
“This legislation has been in the works for a long time, we are so happy to finally see Missouri Raise The Age!" said Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice."The measure will keep more young people out of the dangerous adult criminal justice system. It will also lead to better outcomes for public safety, as children who retain access to the educational and rehabilitative programs of the juvenile justice system are known to have significantly lower rates of recidivism than those who are tried and punished as adults."
The Campaign for Youth Justice thanks the Missouri Raise The Age Coalition who organized the efforts to ensure Missouri's youth will have the chance for a bright future. CFYJ would like to especially thank,Tracy McClard the founder of Families and Friends Organized to Reform Juvenile Justice (FORJ-MO).Tracy has lead the fight pushing tirelessly for passage of this legislation in remembrance of her son, Jonathan McClard, who committed suicide in an adult facility at the age of 17, fearing he would be sentenced to a long prison term with adults.
"I'm greatly relieved that this population of Missouri’s youth are finally going to be protected from the adult criminal justice system whose leadership galvanized advocates efforts to Raise the Age. “It' been a long road. Thank you Senator Wallingford for fighting alongside me for almost a decade.”
Once it is fully implemented, raising the age will improve public safety, save taxpayer dollars, treat families fairly, and get better outcomes for vulnerable young people.
About the Campaign for Youth Justice:
The Campaign for Youth Justice, based in Washington, DC, is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.