Senate Passes Raise the Age Act

Staff Report

     On May 2, the Louisiana State Senate passed the Raise the Age Act, Senate Bill 324 authored by Senator J. P. Morrell, by a vote of 33 to 4. The Raise the Age Act passed out of the Senate Committees on Judiciary B and Finance before seeing a vote on the Senate floor. Louisiana is one of only nine states where 17-year-old offenders are recognized as adults, no matter how minor their offenses.

     A key part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ agenda for the 2016 Regular Legislative Session, SB 324 would effectively submit 17-year-olds who commit delinquent acts to the authority of the juvenile justice system, rather than automatically trying them as adults, or keeping them in adult prisons for detention prior to trial.

     “Not only are we out of step with the rest of the country, but this is not the right way to treat our children, and it is costing our state too much money,” Edwards said. “Not only is this common sense policy, it is--more importantly--about not giving up on any child. We know that 17-year-olds who do time in an adult facility are at a greater risk for assault and are more likely to end up back in prison.”

     Hundreds of students from across the state gathered for a rally in support of the Raise the Age Act on April 11, 2016.

     “I want to be a police detective when I get older," said  17-year-old Carlos Wilson, a student involved in organizing the rally. "I believe in following the law. I believe that people should be held accountable when they do wrong. That includes kids, but when young people are put into adult jails, they fear for their life. When young people get criminal records unnecessarily, they fear for their future.”

     It has been 108 years since Louisiana reviewed the age at which children are treated as adults for the purpose of criminal prosecution. Today, Louisiana is one of only nine states that exclude all 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system – even for the most minor, nonviolent offenses.