For Immediate Release:
Dec. 3, 2015

Contact: Bill Foster
(573) 751-2459
Sen. Wallingford Introduces New Legislation for the 2016 Session

JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau today introduced new legislation for the 2016 session. Senate Bill 618 will prohibit the detention of youth tried as adults in adult jails before they turn 17 or are sentenced to adult prison. Youth would instead be placed in juvenile facilities. Additionally, the legislation would form a task force to develop the process of transitioning youth now detained in adult jails into juvenile facilities.

Missouri is one of only nine states in the country that has failed to recognize what research and science have confirmed – children are different than adults, and prosecuting and placing them in the adult criminal justice system doesn’t work for them and doesn’t work for public safety. Missouri remains one of the last states to “raise the age” of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18.

"Holding youth in adult jails pre-trial is especially problematic as the youth are exposed to the adult criminal system before they have been convicted of any crime," Wallingford said. "We should not expose our children to adult jails pretrial when national data tells us that one in five will not receive an adult conviction. This is a small, but important step in protecting our children In Missouri."

Advocate, Tracy McClard is the founder of Families and Friends Organized to Reform Juvenile Justice (FORJ-MO). McClard and her organization have previously championed "Jonathan’s Law,” a bill requiring judges to consider giving minors who have been convicted as adults a juvenile sentence, and requiring an explanation if they do not. Jonathan's Law is in remembrance of Tracy's son, Jonathan McClard, who committed suicide in an adult facility at the age of 17. Jonathan was serving a 30-year prison sentence and was en-route to being incarcerated in the general population.

McClard believes the passage of this legislation could prevent future tragedies like what happened to her son.

“Study after study finds youth in adult facilities face higher rates of suicide and abuse by other inmates and staff members. It is unacceptable to expose our children, who will one day return to our communities, to such trauma. I applaud Sen. Wallingford for introducing this legislation," McClard said.

The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 puts grant money at risk if Missouri does not separate youth and adults in adult jails and prisons. States across the country have found that removing youth from adult facilities is the most cost-effective way to comply with PREA. Missouri can, and should, come into compliance with PREA to protect youth.   

About Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice (FORJMO): FORJ-MO is the first parent lead juvenile justice organization in Missouri working to change the laws that turn our children into adults, with horrific outcomes, once they enter the adult criminal justice system. For additional information, please visit: