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Report Finds Raising Juvenile Court Age Benefited NH
Published Thursday, March 16, 2017

The John H. Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester. Photo: Lavallee Brensinger Architects

 A new report from the Justice Policy Institute shows that over the past decade, half of the states—including NH—that had previously excluded all 16- and/or 17-year-olds from juvenile court based solely on their age but then absorbed these young people into the youth justice system, saved taxpayer money and lowered youth crime rates.

Since 2007, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, NH and South Carolina have all passed laws to raise the age for the juvenile courts. While there were negative predictions that states raising this age would be overwhelmed, the report finds that this did not significantly increase taxpayer costs, and the number of youth in the adult system nationwide was nearly cut in half.

In 2017, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin are considering some type of legislative proposal that would raise the age from 17 and/or 16 years of age to 18 years of age.

Fiscal impact statements offered by stakeholders were limited and did not project true expenditure trends among states that raised the age. Youth justice systems also managed the change by shifting to more cost effective practices that are more likely to help a young person move past delinquency and reduce recidivism, including reduced reliance on confinement.

A major reason why states are raising the age is to keep youth safe. Youth incarcerated in an adult facility are most at risk of sexual assault. Sheriffs as well as juvenile and adult corrections officials have called on lawmakers to raise the age to keep youth safe and avoid building new adult jails and prisons and comply with federal laws, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

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