States Provide More Services for Troubled Youth, Raise Age for Juvenile Court


A major trend in U.S. juvenile justice policy in the past decade has been to expand juvenile court jurisdiction by increasing the upper age for youths, says the National Conference of State Legislatures in a new report, “Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation: 2001-2011.” Today, 38 states set the maximum age at 17, 10 states—Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—set it at 16, and two states—North Carolina and New York—set it at 15, meaning that 16- and 17-year-olds automatically are tried
in the adult system.

The report also says that the “very difficult budget climate in states [ ] has prompted questions about the effectiveness of punitive reforms and the high economic costs they can impose. States are re-evaluating their juvenile justice systems in order to identify methods that produce better results for kids at lower cost. This has contributed to a state legislative trend to realign fiscal resources from state institutions toward more effective
community-based services.”

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