Raise the Age Louisiana: SB 324

Louisiana is one of only nine states that still exclude 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system for all offenses – even for the most minor, nonviolent misdemeanors.

SB 324, the Raise the Age Louisiana Act, will include 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system, holding kids accountable in age-appropriate settings. Today, Louisiana is one of only 9 states that exclude all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system – even for the most minor, nonviolent offenses.

Louisianans agree that raising the age is good policy. Polling by LSU shows that 66% of Louisianans – a majority of both parties – believe that 17-year-olds should be included in the juvenile justice system.  And, in February of 2016, LSU’s nonpartisan Institute for Public Health and Justice released a report urging the Legislature to raise the age.

Raising the age is common sense. In Louisiana, adult usually means 18: 17-year-olds can’t vote, serve on juries, join the military, or buy a lottery ticket. There’s only one exception: Kids are automatically charged, jailed, and imprisoned as adults the day they turn 17, regardless of their offense.  Their arrests and convictions are public record, which gets in the way of finishing school and joining the workforce.  And, if sentenced to incarceration, those youth are sent to adult prisons, where they are in danger of physical and sexual abuse.

Did you know?

  • Prosecuting youth in the adult system can increase recidivism by as much as 34%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • More than 90% of all offenses committed by 17-year-olds in Louisiana are nonviolent.
  • Louisiana is one of only 9 states that prosecute all 17-year-olds as adults.

Raising the Age is SAFE

  • Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system decreases recidivism by 34%, according to the Centers for Disease Control, because the juvenile system is better at supervision and requiring participation in services that can get kids on the right track.
  • Raising the age will not prevent DAs from prosecuting serious offenders as adults. But more than 90% of 17-year-olds arrested in Louisiana are not accused of offenses involving weapons or violence, according to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
  • 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.
  • Public safety benefits is one of the reason why conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich support raising the age.  Here’s an op-ed by Gingrich arguing that “New York’s Raise the Age proposal is smart policy that will keep communities safer and make responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”
  • In fact, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is on record as supporting Louisiana’s raise the age campaign, finding that “[e]fforts to reduce the number of 17-year-olds being prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system would save Louisiana money without compromising public safety, as those 17-year-olds who commit certain violent crimes or sex offenses could still be prosecuted as adults.”

Raising the Age is SMART

  • We need to keep young people on track for the workforce. Adult arrests are public record and can limit job and educational opportunities for a lifetime. Adult convictions shut the door on even more opportunities, such as earning the certification required for employment in Louisiana’s biggest industries. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune observed: “Being labeled as an adult offender for a youthful mistake can stick with people for life.

Raising the Age is COST-EFFECTIVE

  • States that raised the age have downsized their juvenile justice system and lowered short-term and long-term costs as a result of decreased recidivism.
  • Connecticut, which raised the age in 2012, was able to close a juvenile facility; reduced its juvenile justice costs by $2 million annually; and saved an estimated $58 million in 2015 as a result of decreased recidivism.
  • A Texas cost-benefit analysis found that raising the age would generate a net benefit of $88 million.
  • Americans from across the political spectrum supporting raising the age as a responsible use of taxpayer funds that helps curb crime.  Here’s a report by Marc Levin, of Texas’ conservative Center for Effective Justice, that argues for raising the age.
  • Raising the age will protect sheriffs. To ensure the safety of young inmates, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires complete sight-and-sound separation between 17-year-olds and adults in jails. Non-compliance exposes sheriffs to liability and puts Louisiana at risk of losing federal funds. Raising the age will promote compliance without expensive retrofitting of jail and prison facilities across the state.

Raising the Age is FAIR

  • Raising the age will protect the right of parents to be involved in the court cases of their children. 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.
  • Youth in adult facilities face high risks of sexual assault and violence. And they often spend up to 23 hours every day in solitary confinement, leading to physical and psychological harm.