From The Center Square:

Nina Bala, associate director of criminal justice and civil liberties at The R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public research organization, told The Center Square that 17-year-olds aren’t considered adults for any other purpose.

“They can’t join the army, buy a lottery ticket, so they are adults only for this purpose, which is pretty strange,” Bala said. “We know from research that’s not good policy in terms of development and recidivism.”

Bala said young people, for the most part, grow out of criminal behavior, which is one reason the juvenile justice system is separate from the adult system.

“Because we know that young people are immature and irresponsible,” Bala said. “We see them as less culpable for their behavior than adults because they’re still learning. That’s why even the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has said in cases that children are different and should be treated differently than adults.”

Bala said keeping 17-year-olds in the juvenile system means they have a better chance of succeeding and that childhood mistakes often don’t reflect that person’s future potential.

Bala cited research that youth are often vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse in adult facilities.

“We know that when we put kids in the adult system, they tend to do very badly there,” Bala said. “For their own health and the community’s health, it’s not a good place for a kid to be.”

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