I will also support measures to hold children accountable for violations of the law in age-appropriate settings by including 17 years olds in our juvenile justice system. Louisiana is one of only 9 states that exclude all 17 year olds from the juvenile justice system, even the most minor, nonviolent offenses.
Yesterday in his State of the State speech kicking off the regular legislative session, Governor John Bel Edwards endorsed a policy change that would keep 17-year-old kids who commit non-violent offenses in the juvenile justice system. (Read the full transcript of the speech here.) Currently, and ridiculously, all 17-year-olds who break the law are treated as adults regardless of the seriousness of the offense. Senator J.P. Morrell has introduced SB 324 to effect the change.
The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights has led the charge on this issue and assembled an impressive (and large) coalition of organizations supporting the effort. Editorial boards from conservative Central Louisiana (The Town Talk) to comparatively liberal New Orleans (The Times-Picayune) have endorsed the idea, as well. More generally, even conservative organizations like the Charles Koch Institute are pushing for common-sense criminal justice reform like this, as I wrote about back in the fall.