Over the past two years, four states have “Raised the Age” of criminal court jurisdiction to 18, leaving only five states that still charge all 17-year-olds as adults, no matter how minor the offense. Missouri is one of the five.
One of the hindrances to the effort to “Raise the Age” in Missouri is the cost associated with keeping youth in the juvenile justice system. Now,a study authored by Dr. David M. Mitchell, the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University, concludes that there are significant savings to be achieved by raising the age to 18.
The savings, which more than offset the initial investments required to implement the change, are due to reduced recidivism from keeping young people out of the adult system and to increased earning (and tax paying) potential of 17-year-olds kept in the juvenile system. The study also revealed that the savings to the Department of Corrections have been underestimated, and would likely be more than $3 million greater than current estimates.
The consistent decline in juvenile crime rates, which are less than half what they were 10 years ago, suggests that now is the optimal time to push for this kind of reform. “Raise the Age” legislation is being sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer (HB 1255) and Sen. Wayne Wallingford (SB 793).