A recent editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times asks if we should raise the age for charging young people as adults from 17 to 18.
A proposed Illinois state law would mandate that 17 year-olds be tried as juveniles for both misdemeanors and most felonies.
At 17, young people are on the cusp of adulthood, but still at an age where they are more capable of change than a full-fledged adult. Juvenile records can be expunged; an adult record will follow offenders for the rest of their lives.
If we “don’t allow 17-year-olds to vote, buy Lottery tickets or sign up for a credit card,” should we really be charging them as adults?
The proposed Illinois law has been five years in the making. In 2010, the Illinois General Assembly approved juvenile status for 17-year-olds who are picked up for misdemeanors. If subsequent research showed that this change did not create an undue burden on the state’s juvenile justice system or put the public at risk, the Legislature said, it would consider approving juvenile status, as well, for the approximately 4,000 17-year-olds charged with felonies each year.
The research is in. The 2010 law has worked fine. A study released last month by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission concluded that juvenile crime has declined sharply and juvenile detention centers have not been overrun. Sheriffs and state’s attorneys complain that the “bifurcated” law — treating some 17-year-olds as juveniles and others as adults — created bureaucratic confusion.
“Young people can be incredibly clever and clueless at the same time,” the Juvenile Justice Commission’s report states. “Even the most responsible teenagers have a combustible combination of youth, opportunity and still-developing judgment.”
What do you think?
Should 17 year-olds be charged as adults?
Sound off below!