Do 17-year-old offenders belong in adult prison? Would there be benefits to raising the age of responsibility to 18 instead?
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, alongside several other groups including the ACLU of Texas and Texans Care for Children, are pushing to have the age of responsibility raised in the 2019 legislative session. In 2013, there were 12 states left in the country that had not raised the age of responsibility. In 2017, Texas is one of the only five remaining.
Does raising the age lower crime rates? Actually, according to a non-partisan study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, Texas statistics show that such a change would not only lower the number of juveniles in state facilities but would also lower youth crime rates.
Mental health and children’s advocates agree that raising the age is important to protect the mental health and future prospects for these at-risk youth. Raising the age could also lower recidivism rates, or the rate at which convicted offenders reoffend. Many of these 17-year-olds charged, convicted and sent to adult prisons are imprisoned for non-violent offenses. And despite the fact that 17-year-olds can’t vote, consent to medical procedures, rent a home or live independently without parental permission, the justice system as it is treats minors as adults.
Critics have decried the idea in the past, saying that raising the age would be an expensive move for some counties, since they would have to add space and staff for civil courts and juvenile probation services. What do you think? Should the age of responsibility be reduced in Texas?