The Missouri General Assembly recently voted to raise the age for automatically trying youth as adults from 17 to 18. The bill now awaits Gov. Eric Greitens’ signature.
Only five states treat 17-year-olds as adults – and Missouri is one of them. This harms not only those young people being jailed but also the Missouri economy and local communities.
The Show-Me State is already showing other states how to treat young people in the juvenile justice system. Rather than focusing on punishment, Missouri’s strategy, known as the “Missouri Approach,” seeks to turn participants into productive citizens by targeting and addressing the underlying causes of delinquency in individual participants. This method has helped Missouri reduce its youth recidivism rate to 26 percent of offenders. Recidivism rates for offenders held in adult prison are at least twice as high. If Gov. Greitens signs this bill, vulnerable, older youth will have the opportunity to benefit from this system.
The General Assembly’s passage of this bill reiterates the desire of Missourians to give young people a better chance to grow into responsible, productive adults. It is often easier to rehabilitate youth offenders than adults, as long as they receive the appropriate guidance and education. Juvenile detention programs are more inclined to provide these rehabilitative and educational opportunities than adult jails or prisons.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his political and personal future, the governor should sign this bill into law. If there is something we can all agree on, it is that we should do everything we possibly can for our youth, our community and our economy – all of which will benefit from this bill becoming law.
Thanks to the Legislature, the governor now has a win-win opportunity for a balanced solution that saves taxpayers money and improves public safety.
Way to go MO!
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