Although prosecutors and judges are usually able to pull teenagers out of the juvenile court system and charge them as adults if the crime is severe enough, nine states automatically classify 17-year-olds as adults.
In North Carolina and New York, 16-year-olds always face adult courts. In the last few years, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Connecticut have raised the age of who is automatically considered an adult by the criminal justice system to 18.
In general, we recognize that youth differ from adults.
Research on brain development has shown that adolescents are more likely to act impulsively and more easily influenced by peer pressure.
The remaining eight states should follow Louisiana’s lead.
Measures to raise the cutoff age of who counts as an adult in the Texas criminal justice system from 17 to 18 failed to pass before the end of the biennial legislative session on June 1.
By passing this law, Louisiana has made significant progress in making its criminal justice system more humane for youth under 18 while also better protecting public safety.
Placing youth in the adult system can also have long-term implications for their future success.
As educational programming in adult facilities is, understandably, primarily geared towards adults, incarcerated youth are often unable to access the classes they need to earn their diploma or GED.
They suffer collateral consequences that can prevent them from obtaining employment, further educational opportunities, and from receiving student financial aid.
Punishing youth as adults also negatively impacts public safety.