Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. That’s the hope behind a juvenile bill that passed the general assembly in the final days of the session. SB 36 would extend the age to 17 ½ years old that a juvenile could remain under the jurisdiction of the Division of Youth Services (DYS).
Sponsored by Senator Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau), this bill adds six months eligibility that the court must consider when imposing a juvenile sentence. Also known as Jonathon’s Law, SB 36 was filed in response to a young man from southeast Missouri who committed suicide after being sentenced to an adult institution rather than DYS. The bill also requires that if the court does not choose DYS, it must state the reasons for its choice.
The MCC supported SB 36 because the U.S. Bishops have urged that youthful offenders should be treated differently than adult offenders. Missouri’s DYS is recognized as a national leader for its successful juvenile justice program in rehabilitating young offenders.
The bill now awaits the governor’s signature to become law.