Today, the Louisiana House of Representatives gave final passage to the Raise the Age Act, legislation that allows juveniles, including 17-year-olds, to be placed in the juvenile justice system, an age-appropriate setting. This is a key part of Governor John Bel Edwards’ legislative package and is supported by 66 percent of Louisianans and 41 other states. The measure passed the House by a vote of 97-3 with 21 co-authors.
“This is a significant step forward for Louisiana as we work to reform our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Edwards. “We know that at 17 a young person’s brain is still developing. We recognize this when it comes to voting, joining the military, or even buying a lottery ticket. Appropriately, under this bill district attorneys retain the authority to decide, case by case, whether to prosecute an individual as an adult. We are no longer giving up on our young people; rather we are giving them a chance to get their lives back on track. I look forward to signing this bill into law.”
Rather than automatically sending 17-year-olds to the adult criminal system as we have done for decades regardless of their offense and with poor results, our default will be to send them to the juvenile justice system where they will have a greater chance of being rehabilitated. Prior to this legislation, it had been 108 years since Louisiana reviewed the age at which children could be criminally prosecuted as adults.
“This measure will go a long way toward modernizing and improving Louisiana’s criminal justice system,” said the bill’s author, Senator J.P. Morrell of New Orleans. “It’s clear that children should not always be tried as adults. Not only is this much better for their futures, but it saves taxpayers money and makes our communities safer and stronger.”
Next, the bill heads to the Senate for concurrence.