In Texas, Another “Raise The Age” Debate

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When it comes to committing crimes, 17-year-olds are much more similar to 16-year-olds than to adults, says a new study released in Texas by advocates urging lawmakers to treat those under 18 as juveniles in the criminal justice system, reports the Dallas Morning News. Texas is one of seven states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. State Rep. Harold Dutton has filed a bill that would bring Texas in line with most other states and raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18. Advocates of raising the age argue that 17-year-olds’ brains are less well-developed than those of adults and that 17-year-olds are more likely to successfully complete rehabilitation and avoid more criminal behavior if they are sent to the juvenile system. Critics worry that adding 17-year-olds to the caseload would overburden the already struggling juvenile probation system.

The study said arrests of 17-year-olds have been dropping since 2008, falling by 17 percent from 2013 to 2015. The drop-off in arrests for 16-year-olds has been even steeper, falling by 26 percent during the same period. Juvenile justice advocates attribute the steeper drop in younger offenses to the state’s increased emphasis on treatment for minors in the juvenile justice system. The study noted that 16- and 17-year-olds commit similar types of crimes. Both were most often charged with theft, drug possession and assault. “Research shows that many of the programs most effective at reducing re-offending require parental involvement,” said Marc Levin of Right on Crime.

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