Raise the Age Louisiana: SB 324
On March 14th, 2016, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announed that he supports raising the age! "We will hold children accountable for violations of the law in age-appropriate settings by including 17-year-olds in our juvenile justice system,” the governor said in his State of the State address to a joint meeting of the legislature that opens the 2016 legislative session. “Louisiana is one of only nine states that excludes all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system, even for the most minor, nonviolent offenses.”
The Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Bernette Joshua Johnson, also promoted raising the age in her State of the Judiciary address the next morning, saying it would save the state money without limiting the ability of district attorneys to prosecute the most serious offenders as adults.
SB 324, the Raise the Age Louisiana Act, will include 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system, holding kids accountable in age-appropriate settings. Today, Louisiana is one of only 9 states that exclude all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system – even for the most minor, nonviolent offenses.
Louisianans agree that raising the age is good policy. Polling by LSU shows that 66|PERCENT| of Louisianans – a majority of both parties – believe that 17-year-olds should be included in the juvenile justice system. And, in February of 2016, LSU’s nonpartisan Institute for Public Health and Justice released a report urging the Legislature to raise the age.
Raising the age is common sense. In Louisiana, adult usually means 18: 17-year-olds can’t vote, serve on juries, join the military, or buy a lottery ticket. There’s only one exception: Kids are automatically charged, jailed, and imprisoned as adults the day they turn 17, regardless of their offense. Their arrests and convictions are public record, which gets in the way of finishing school and joining the workforce. And, if sentenced to incarceration, those youth are sent to adult prisons, where they are in danger of physical and sexual abuse.
The Raise the Age Louisiana Act, SB 324, will be part of the governor’s legislative package. SB 324 is the cornerstone of the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition's 2016 legislative agenda to create a juvenile justice system that is safe, smart, cost-effective, and fair.