Monday, January 01, 2018

Raise the Age: 17-Year-Olds in the Criminal Justice System

Thanks to University of Texas at Austin, Plan II undergraduate student, Annie Albrecht, whose Plan II thesis I co-supervised with McCombs School of Business professor Dr. Melissa Murphy, I am fairly up to date on this issue and am convinced that not only should 17-year-olds enter the juvenile justice—as opposed to the adult criminal justice—system, but that this is a human rights issue, as well.

The age could even be arguably higher.  No chance of that right now, it appears, so we should at least raise the age to 18.

Research on brain development, particularly the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, finds, as reported herein, "that youth are inherently less likely to consider the outcomes of their actions, more prone to risky behavior, and more vulnerable
or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures."  Most importantly, 17-year-olds would get treated as juvenile offenders, rather than as adult criminals, giving them access to rehabilitation.

More of us need to join efforts with Texas Appleseed, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the ACLU, Texans Care for Children, Right on Crime, and Senator Harold Dutton who championed this legislation during the last legislative session that Sen. John Whitmire opposed.  It is unfortunate that this bill didn't pass last legislative session.  Hopefully, it will pass next session.

Also, take a close look at this research brief for more detailed information.  

-Angela Valenzuela


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