This week the Senate heard two bills relating to how juvenile offenders are treated. Sponsored by Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) SB 618 would keep juveniles under 17 who are charged with a crime housed in a juvenile detention facility before their trial. The other bill, SB 684 would require the court to do an evaluation for juvenile offenders to determine whether dual jurisdiction is appropriate for certain juvenile offenders.
Numerous individuals and organizations, including the MCC, spoke in support of SB 618. Witnesses reminded the committee that housing youth with adult offenders in jails can be traumatizing and result in abuse or even rape. If youth are separated in adult jails they are often in isolation cells which can lead to depression and suicide. Advocates noted that space is available in the juvenile system to safely house those youth charged with a crime, as youth arrests have dropped significantly in Missouri.
In supporting SB 684, advocates noted that many judges already do an evaluation for youth charged as an adult, but the bill would now require all judges to see that the evaluation was completed.
The committee took no action on the bills.