|Week of Jan. 22, 2018
Reforming our State’s Judicial System to Help Missouri’s Youth
While our state is facing many challenges this year, juvenile crime continues to fall. In fact, over the last 10 years the annual number of crimes committed by juveniles has dropped by more than 50 percent. With this in mind, I believe this year is the perfect time to join the majority of other states in raising the age of adult court jurisdiction from 17 years old to 18 years old. Currently, Missouri, along with only four other states, automatically tries 17 year olds as adults, no matter how minor the offense.
I have filed Senate Bill 793 which would raise the age to 18 years old in Missouri, except in the most serious offenses. The vast majority of 17 year olds arrested are accused of offenses that are non-violent and involve no weapons. Missouri has been considered a leader in juvenile justice, but our state is falling behind. Enacting this legislation would allow these young people to have access to education and rehabilitation while being protected from the kinds of assault and abuse that are too common in adult jails and prisons.
This week, I presented SB 793 for consideration before the Missouri Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Professors, social work professionals, non-profit organizations, charities and child advocates shared their expertise and knowledge on this topic and advocated for moving the age of adult court jurisdiction to 18 years old. These experts provided valuable testimony with important information about the benefits of this legislation.
A recent study conducted by Missouri State University details the economic benefits of raising the age of court jurisdiction. The study shows young people, who are retained in the juvenile system rather than the adult prison system, have better success as adults by working better jobs, paying more taxes and contributing to the local economy. Recidivism rates are also significantly lower for youth who are in the juvenile system rather than the adult system. These factors suggest that enacting this legislation would benefit our state’s economy.
Beyond the practical benefits to the state, raising the age also protects parental rights. In other aspects of Missouri law, 17 year olds are considered children; however, if these individuals are arrested their parents suddenly lose their rights to support, defend and care for their child. These are the times when parents are needed the most, and denying them the opportunity to support and care for their child violates their rights as parents and harms the child in question.
If enacted, SB 793 will be implemented on January 1, 2021, giving various agencies time to ensure the change is implemented effectively and to ensure required funding is in place. This legislation provides practical benefits to the state of Missouri while promoting restorative justice for our young Missourians.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at email@example.com or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.
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- This Date in Missouri Senate History: Jan. 25, 1837
- Sen. Ron Richard’s Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 22, 2018