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Thank You! Advocates are a Powerful Voice at MO Council Hearing

Posted in 2015, Campaigns Friday, 13 February 2015

FORMJ

On Tuesday, February 10th, the Missouri Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing on Missouri’s “Raise the Age” bill, House Bill 300. The bill was introduced by the bill champion, Representatives Ron Hicks (R) who began the hearing by highlighting the main provisions of the bill and the positive changes this would have for 17 year olds in the state of Missouri.

He shared with the Committee the fact that treating 17 year olds automatically as adults has been the law since 1905. Today, youth arrests and detention are down in Missouri and the overwhelming majority of youth are arrested for misdemeanor offenses. 

Supporters of the bill made sure to have a strong presence, and with the leadership of FORJ’s Tracy McClard, the room was packed with supporters to remove 17 year olds from the adult system in Missouri.

What HB 300 “Raise the Age” accomplishes:

1)  Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18: Missouri is currently one of nine states in which a child is automatically charged in the adult criminal system before the age of 18.

2)  Prevents most youth from being held in adult jail while they are awaiting trial.

Nearly a dozen individuals representing several organizations provided testimony at the hearing in favor of the bill. While the testimony covered a wide range of issues associated with youth exposure to the adult criminal justice system, there were a few common themes among the testimonies.

Several witnesses focused on the substantive differences between the services offered at youth facilities and adult facilities and the impact that intervention with the appropriate services can have on these individuals.  The impact on public safety of charging and housing youth in adult facilities was another popular topic. Several witnesses emphasized that these youth will return to society one day and that services in the juvenile system better prepare these youth for reintegration in the community. Multiple witnesses identified research showing recidivism rates were higher for youth held in adult facilities including findings that, “youth prosecuted in the adult system are 34% more likely to reoffend than those in the juvenile system.” Witnesses also noted that charging and holding youth in adult facilities does not deter crime.  

Several witnesses in favor of the bill, including a local sheriff, testified that the recent Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requirements of sight and sound separation for all youth under 18 in adult facilities provides more motivation to pass this bill now. Otherwise, states will lose precious federal dollars in unable to meet the stringent requirements.

No groups or individuals testified in opposition of the bill further paving the way for passage.

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.  To receive more information about Missouri’s Raise the Age efforts or get involved, please go to FORJ-MO.