With officials in Louisiana currently debating whether or not to raise (from 17 to 18) the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults, it’s important to analyze the effects that similar laws have had on the four states, including Massachusetts, that have passed age adjustments for minors accused of crimes.
According to an analysis published earlier this year in The Advocate, a comprehensive study of the costs and benefits associated with raising the minimum age was impossible due to a lack of data. Researchers at Louisiana State University did, however, agree with Massachusetts lawmakers in reaching their conclusion that the minds of 17-year-olds are, perhaps unsurprisingly, still developing, and that trying them as adults for engaging in behavior representative of their age is both expensive and inhumane.
The Upside is Real
While rehabilitation programs aimed at keeping juveniles out of jail may lead to higher upfront costs, the long-term savings could be anywhere between $15 and 20 million per year, according to extrapolating figures from North Carolina, which raised its minimum age to 18 in recent years. Since enacting their own minimum age law in 2007, Connecticut has reported annual savings of $2 million.
We’re Talking About Nonviolent Offenders, Folks
For the sake of clarity, it’s important to remember that raising the minimum age at which juveniles can be tried as adults applies only to those accused of nonviolent crimes. Prosecutors retain the right to try minors as adults when accused of rape, murder and/or armed robbery.
A Legal Ally for Massachusetts’ Youth
If your child is facing charges that could land them in a juvenile detention facility, call criminal defense lawyer Thomas Whitney Attorney at Law at (413) 256-6234 immediately. We have many years of experience defending juvenile criminal defense cases and will work tirelessly to protect your children.