Wisconsin's tough-on-crime policy of placing 17-year-old criminal offenders in adult court is a failed experiment that only increases the likelihood the teens will commit more crimes, said a study reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The study by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families also finds racial bias in the policy’s implementation, saying that African-American youth are far more likely to be incarcerated than white youths. “It’s become increasingly clear that trying youth as adults does not make communities safer,” said the council’s Charity Eleson.
The study looked at 1,000 17-year-old offenders with cases beginning Jan. 1, 2001. The study said that 70 percent of the teens were later convicted of another crime. The highest recidivism rate – 80 percent – was found among teens who received jail sentences. The lowest rate – 37 percet – was among teens who received deferred prosecutions; that is, cases in which prosecution is withdrawn if a teen successfully complies with programming and other conditions. Among African-American teens, 80 perecent were jailed or imprisoned while 19 percent were fined, placed on probation or received deferred prosecutions. Among white youths, 46 percent were jailed or imprisoned while 53 percent received fines, probation or deferred prosecution. The study’s results are consistent with a report issued this month by the U.S. Department of Justice.