Should 17-year-old offenders be charged as adults? We’ve blogged in the past about efforts and arguments to raise the age of responsibility from 17 to 18. New data from a broad coalition of groups working to raise the age shows that 17-year-olds face much poorer outcomes than 16-year-olds who commit similar crimes. And yet, the law still remains the same.
Statistics on the Issue
The offenses typically committed by 17-year-olds do not differ much from those 16-year-olds commit, according to Raise the Age. Data from 2012 to 2015 shows that the most common crimes for each age group are:
- Age 16 – theft (20.2%), misdemeanor assault (13.7%), drug possession (12.5%), runaway (9.9%), curfew and loitering violations (5.6%)
- Age 17 – theft (20.8%), drug possession (19.1%), misdemeanor assault (10.8%), drunkenness (3.7%), liquor law violations (3.4%)
And yet, despite these similarities, our system continues to expose teens to dangers. Placing 17-year-olds in the adult system is correlated with higher rates of depression, suicide, and physical and sexual victimization. Additionally, many of these kids are still in high school. Forcing them into the adult justice system locks parents out of the process and negatively affects their prospects for college, employment and housing right at the cusp of adulthood.
What do you think? Is it okay to continue considering 17-year-olds adults for the sake of the justice system? Or is it our duty to protect these kids from undue harms imposed upon them by adult jails and prisons?