‘Raising the Age’ for Juvenile Courts Has Helped Cut Crime

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More states are dropping laws that automatically bump teenagers from juvenile courts when they reach a certain age. Such moves abandon a model of punishment proved to be expensive, ineffective, and not flexible enough to improve outcomes for offenders or society, says a new study from the Justice Policy Institute, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reports. States that raised the “age of jurisdiction,” the point where a teenager can no longer access the juvenile system and must be treated as an adult, no matter the crime, have seen decreases in crime.

States that have increased the age of jurisdiction, typically from 16 to 18 years old, faced complaints from opponents worried that their juvenile system would be inundated with new cases and could collapse under the strain. That hasn’t happened. The research shows that since 2007, the number of teens nationally who were automatically excluded from adult courts has been cut in half, from 175,000 to under 90,000 today. Researchers noted that juvenile crime continues to fall and that tens of millions of dollars originally earmarked for youth detention have been diverted to treatment and education, helping to reduce crime. Last year Louisiana and South Carolina changed their laws to allow offenders as old as 17 to remain in juvenile courts. Massachusetts, Illinois and Connecticut predicted that raising the age of jurisdiction would result in much higher costs to taxpayers than actually occurred.

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