(3/1/19)—For decades, Louisiana has been one of the only states in the country to charge 17-year-olds as adults.
Today, that changed.
Going forward, non-violent offenders will be treated as juveniles thanks to the raise the age law.
“The juvenile system does have the capacity right now,” said Rachel Gassert, policy director at Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. “the office of juvenile justice has added programming, in particular programming that’s specifically targeted for an older population.”
The Raise the Age Act passed in 2016.
Lawmakers and juveniles joined together on the Capitol steps, pushing to make 18 the legal age to be charged as an adult.
Legislature overwhelmingly approved. The law was supposed to take effect last July, but was pushed back to today.
Gassert believes the law will help protect underaged offenders.
“Kids in adult jails are at such a higher risk for sexual or physical abuse and suicide is extremely concerning,” said Gassert “and we should be doing everything in our power to eliminate that risk.”
Local Assistant Attorney General Johnny Sanders says the law will help non-violent underaged offenders rehabilitate.
“The goal is, if we got some especially non-violent offenders, that we can help keep them off that path that leads deeper into the adult system and get them on track to be more productive.” said Sanders.
In July 2020, violent offenders will also be included in the law. This means that all underage offenders will have the opportunity to go to a juvenile facility, rather than jail.