States See Clear Benefits to Keeping Youth Out of the Adult Criminal Justice System

Posted March 29, 2017
Blog statesseeclearbenefits 2017

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

With­in the last decade, sev­en states have passed laws to raise the age on juve­nile jus­tice juris­dic­tion. This move means that 16- and 17-year-olds who were pre­vi­ous­ly des­tined for adult crim­i­nal court are now being served by the juve­nile jus­tice system.

The pay­off for mak­ing this switch is clear, accord­ing to a report from the Jus­tice Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, which receives fund­ing from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. Rais­ing the age has improved both pub­lic safe­ty and youth devel­op­ment out­comes with­out sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­ing tax­pay­er costs. Equal­ly impor­tant: It has near­ly halved the num­ber of youth in our nation’s adult system.

The report, Rais­ing the Age, explores exact­ly how states imple­ment­ed this change— and kept more youth at home or in their home com­mu­ni­ties — with­out over­whelm­ing their local juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems. It sin­gles out three states — Con­necti­cut, Mass­a­chu­setts and Illi­nois — that led the nation in rais­ing the age of crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty to 18. These states were able to con­tain costs, reduce con­fine­ment, close youth cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties, and real­lo­cate funds to sup­port com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices with­out expe­ri­enc­ing a con­cur­rent increase in juve­nile arrests, accord­ing to researchers.

Read the report

The alter­na­tive path­way, which cours­es through the adult crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, expos­es young peo­ple to deep and psy­cho­log­i­cal harms while fail­ing to meet their devel­op­men­tal needs, accord­ing to a grow­ing body of research. At present, only a hand­ful of states still sup­port the auto­mat­ic pros­e­cu­tion of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. But, as the expe­ri­ences doc­u­ment­ed in Rais­ing the Age indi­cate, these states have noth­ing to lose — and much to gain — by fol­low­ing the nation­al trend of hold­ing youth account­able in the juve­nile jus­tice system.

Learn how juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems are engag­ing youth and families

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families