A push is on to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Texas from 17 to 18. Under state law, 17-year-olds are treated as adults in criminal cases. Supporters say 17-year-olds are minors and that throwing them in lockups with adults can put them in harm’s way, cause mental anguish and usher them toward a life of crime. Treatment, in the juvenile justice system, is the better answer, they say, reports the Texas Tribune. Seventeen-year-olds can’t vote, join the military or buy cigarettes or alcohol, state Rep. Gene Wu told 200 students, parents, and policy advocates at a rally yesterday at the state capitol organized by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. When asked why they’ve done something wrong, Wu said, they usually answer, “I don’t know.”
The issue is considered priority No. 1 for juvenile justice advocates in Texas. “As legislators, we have to remember that we live in the real world,” Wu said. “We live in a world where children act like children, and we shouldn’t expect them to be adults when we treat them as children for everything else.” Legislation to make the age change failed in 2015. Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, questioned whether juvenile facilities could handle all 17-year-olds being transferred from one system into another.