Report Commissioned By Louisiana Legislature Calls for State to Raise The Age
By Brian Evans, State Campaign Coordinator
Today a report commissioned last year by the Louisiana state legislature has strongly recommended that the state raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Louisiana is currently one of 9 states in which all 17-year-olds are tried as adults. Several states have raised the age in recent years, including Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Mississippi. Other states – Michigan, New York, South Carolina, and Wisconsin – are considering legislation to do so this year.
In November, New Orleans city officials pledged to move all kids under 18 (regardless of charge) from the adult Orleans Parish Prison to the city’s juvenile detention facility.
The report – “A Legislated Study of Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction in Louisiana: the future of 17-year-olds in the Louisiana Justice System” – was produced by the LSU Institute for Public Health and Justice in response to a Louisiana House of Representatives resolution.
It reviews the latest science on adolescent behavior, as well as public safety, system impacts, and the financial costs of keeping 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. It concludes by finding that “raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds in Louisiana would be consistent with legal trends and a growing body of research on adolescent development and behavior”. It also concludes that raising the age would be likely to “improve public safety” and “lower long-term costs”.
The main recommendation of the report is that Louisiana “strongly consider raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction” after a one-year planning and transition period. The study also suggests “raising the minimum age of juvenile detention from 10 to 13”, and seizing this moment to create a “comprehensive five-year strategic plan for juvenile justice”.
The report notes that raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction would not change statutes that allow for youth to be transferred to the adult system. While the issue of transfer is outside the scope of its investigation, the report does observe that: “Given the noted effects of sending minors to the adult system, particularly higher recidivism rates, Louisiana should ensure that the use of transfer promotes public safety.”
The Louisiana legislature convenes in mid-March, so we will see in a matter of weeks what legislation might come out of this strong report – which the legislature itself authorized – and its recommendations to raise the age.