BATON ROUGE - Today, Governor John Bel Edwards issued the following statement on the unanimous passage of the Raise the Age Act by the House Appropriations Committee:
“This was a critical decision made by the committee members, and I’m thankful they agreed that we must improve the way we treat children who commit minor, non-violent offenses,” said Gov. Edwards. “I believe that offenders at any age should be held accountable for their actions, and that remains the case under this bill. However, 17-year-olds should be sent to the juvenile justice system by default, rather than automatically tried as adults. There, they have a far better chance at rehabilitation under this proposal than in the adult correctional system, which will benefit public safety overall. Louisiana has lagged behind other states on this issue. Now, we are moving in the right direction. I look forward to signing this bill which is an example of good public policy.”
Senate Bill 324, by Senator J.P. Morrell, ensures that children, including 17-year-olds, are placed in an age-appropriate setting. Prosecutors still maintain the authority to charge them as adults when deemed necessary. Louisiana is currently one of only nine states that treat 17-year-old offenders as adults, no matter how minor the offense. Before this legislation, it had been 108 years since Louisiana reviewed the age at which children are treated as adults for the purpose of criminal prosecution.
The bill moves now to the House floor where the full House will vote on the bill.