A Legislated Study of Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction in Louisiana
Published Feb 15, 2016, Institute for Public Health and Justice
Louisiana should strongly consider raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-old offenders. Findings suggest that this change would benefit public safety, promote youth rehabilitation, and create long-term savings.
Crime by youthful offenders continues to trouble Louisiana communities but at reduced rates according to arrest trends over the last decade. This reduction in juvenile crime, accompanied with several reforms in the justice system, has created a smaller and more resilient juvenile justice system. Appropriately resourced, it should be able to absorb the impact of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction while increasing public safety.
This study, authorized by the Louisiana State Legislature in House Concurrent Resolution No. 73 of the 2015 Regular session, was completed at an expedited pace over a six-month period to meet the deadlines established in the resolution. With the involvement of key stakeholders in the justice system from across Louisiana and input from national partners who have worked to study raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in other states, three key findings of this study are summarized below.
- There is a growing consensus, based on a large body of scientific evidence, that 17-year-olds are developmentally different than adults and should be treated as such. They have a far greater potential for rehabilitation and are particularly influenced – for good or ill – by the environments in which they are placed.
- The last several years of reform in the Louisiana juvenile justice system have created a capacity to accept, manage, and rehabilitate these youth in a manner that will predictably generate better outcomes than the adult system.
- The initial impact projections are generally lower than states that have recently gone before Louisiana in raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, and those states found that the impact on the system was substantially less than first predicted. In fact, states have reported substantial fiscal savings. We have reason to suspect this will be the same for Louisiana.