By: Tiffany Young & Rebecca Martin
Individuals cannot vote, purchase/consume tobacco, or fight for this country until the age of 18, yet individuals are sent to adult criminal court at the age of 17.
Why are we sentencing adolescents to adult consequences when they are not able to adequately understand their actions, based on the incomplete development of their brain?
Based on a 1996 (Wisconsin) decision, 17-year-olds have been automatically sent to criminal court. The result of adult convictions is lost opportunity in employability as well as education.
Wisconsin is one of only 11 states in the nation with the age of (criminal) majority of 18. Adolescents sentenced to the adult system may receive minimal services, but are often viewed as “too young”, thus they simply become warehoused and learn to be increasingly criminally minded.
Although there is inherent cost associated with returning 17-year-old, first-time, non-violent offenders to the Juvenile Justice System the end result could be $2.4 to $5.7 million dollars saved annually.
This savings is in correlation to the ability of the Juvenile Justice System to offer individual treatment and rehabilitation. We are asking that we (society) provide 17-year-old, first time, non-violent offenders the opportunity to learn from their mistakes by returning them to the Juvenile Justice System.
You can help with this shift by contacting your state legislators requesting the approval of Assembly Bill 387 and/or House Bill 308 which would return the age of majority to 18 years of age and prosecute 17-year-old, first-time, non-violent offenders as juveniles.