Our Director of Juv. Prob. has indicated that the legislature will be considering raising the age limit for juvenile offenses from 17 (to ?) Has anyone heard that and do you have an opinion? With occasional exceptions, I think most 17 year-olds are "grown enough" to be prosecuted as adults. What do you think?
This was discussed at the Juvenile Law conference back in February. I expect to see it happen.
I am not necessarily for it, because we have some juveniles who repeatedly commit offenses, but never commit a felony. Thus, we are stuck trying to deal with them through out-of-home placements that essentially offer the same types of services and cost the County money. We cannot send them to TJJD because of the lack of a felony.
The Legislature is going to have to appropriate more funds to handle the enlarged population of juveniles who may require such placements. I would also like to see them think about going back to the possibility of TJJD for multiple-misdemeanor offenders who are over 17. I am not going to hold my breath on that one, though.
In some ways, this makes sense, as most of the Supreme Court decisions about "juvenile" offenders (see Miller v. Alabama) actually deal with those under 18, not 17.
My big fear is that they will go past 18, and on to 21 or something ridiculous like that.
From the last several years' worth of Juv Law seminars I've attended, I think that this has been coming for awhile. First, there is the science which indicates that the cognitive portion of the brain is not fully developed in males until at least 23, and normally 25 = so the argument is that we are punishing the individual who still has an immature brain as though they were mature.
Next part of the equation is the increased use / availability of criminal histories. I think all of us know 17-25 is pretty much the age of "criminal stupidity", when kids do seriously stupid things and often end up with a record...that is likely to effect college and career choices. The "error" is less likely to be forgiven than it was in decades past.
That said, I agree that the Lege needs to be ready to throw money at this if they raise the age. Our Juvenile Dept budget is VERY small; thankfully my CJPO is amazing at finding 4E eligibility or other low cost placements. A three county district, we have four TJJD commitments available / year. There are several, though, who - due to mental health needs which cannot be met or just a lack of supportive home - are a trial to us for the years we have them and I DON'T want them any longer!
I think that the logistics will keep them from raising it to 21 - the trial of following them in college or military life would be a nightmare.
Lisa L. Peterson
Nolan County Attorney
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