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House committee passes Raise the Age Act

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BATON ROUGE – Today, the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice passed the Raise the Age Act without opposition. It was approved by the Louisiana State Senate on May 2, 2016.

“I commend the members of this committee for their vote and their willingness to improve the way we treat our children who make mistakes,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “This bill will not prevent proper punishment when necessary. However, it will do more to help decrease the recidivism rate of youngsters who commit crimes and improve their chances for rehabilitation, giving them the opportunity to turn their lives around for the better. This was an important hurdle for this legislation to clear, and I am hopeful that it will ultimately succeed as it continues to make its way through the process.”

Senator J.P. Morrell is the author of Senate Bill 324. It would effectively submit 17-year-olds who commit delinquent acts to the authority of the juvenile justice system, rather than automatically trying them as adults, or keeping them in adult prisons for detention prior to trial. Currently, Louisiana is one of only nine states that exclude all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system – even for the most minor, nonviolent offenses.

“We began the rehabilitation of our juvenile justice system many years ago, and this legislation is a continuation of that effort,” said Sen. Morrell. “Louisiana law on this issue has been severely outdated. It has cost taxpayers more and made the crime situation worse. This bill will help improve our criminal justice system and align our policies with those of the majority of other states.”

Joshua Perry, Executive Director of Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, provided testimony in favor of the bill before the committee today. “Forty-one states and 66 percent of Louisianans believe in including 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system — and now, the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice supports raising the age, too,” said Perry. “We are one step closer to making Louisiana safer, making our justice system more cost-effective and keeping our most vulnerable kids on track to success.”

It has been 108 years since Louisiana reviewed the age at which children are treated as adults for the purpose of criminal prosecution. The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.