BATON ROUGE- The Louisiana Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the Raise the Age bill on Monday.
Louisiana is currently one of nine states that automatically charges a 17-year-old as an adult, but the bill raises that age to 18.
The bill would submit 17-year-olds who commit delinquent acts to the juvenile criminal justice system, rather than trying them as adults or keeping them in adult prisons prior to trial.
Joshua Perry, executive director of the Center for Children’s Rights, said that juveniles are more likely to become a repeat offender if tried as an adult.
“There’s data from Louisiana and from across the country showing that re-offending is up to 34 percent higher when 17 year olds are prosecuted as adults rather than as children,” Perry said.
Perry said that the juvenile system would help juveniles turn their lives around.
“The juvenile justice system has the services has the supports necessary to change peoples life paths,” Perry said.
If the bill becomes law, it would raise the age for offenders of non-violent crimes in 2018 and for all offenders in 2020.
The bill would allow for courts to retain their discretion to send juveniles to an adult prison in more violent cases.
“I think it can work out for the best as long as we retain the right to try those very bad offenders as adults,” Hillar Moore, East Baton Rouge District Attorney, said.
Moore said one of the challenges will be to make sure juvenile jails and courts can handle the new offenders.
“I believe all the different sides are working together to make sure all the infrastructure is there to handle this change,” Moore said.
The bill now goes to the full senate for approval.
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