At the beginning of 2017, nine states still set the age at which children are handled in the adult criminal justice system—regardless of their offense—at an age younger than 18.OJJDP, “Statistical Briefing Book,”
By the summer of 2017, New York and North Carolina, the two states that set the age of criminal responsibility at 16—the lowest in the nation—passed legislation to phase in reforms to raise the age to 18 by 2019.New York SB 2009 (2016); and North Carolina SB 257 (2017) New York will raise the age to 17 in 2018 and to 18 in 2019.Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, “New York Raises the Age of Adult Criminal Responsibility,” press release (Albany, NY: New York State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, April 7, 2017).
North Carolina will also raise the age in phases, getting to 18 by 2019 for most offenses, although teens as young as 13 can still be tried as adults for particularly violent crimes.N.C.G.S. §25-1-101; and Anne Blythe, “NC Becomes Last State to ‘Raise the Age’ of Teens in Court,” Charlotte Observer, June 20, 2017. In 2016, South Carolina passed legislation to raise the age from 17 to 18 by 2019, Louisiana enacted laws to raise the age from 17 to 18 in rolling phases by 2020, and Vermont enacted a law that will gradually raise the age from 18 to 21 by July 2018 and create a separate prison for incarcerated youth up to age 25.Louisiana SB No. 324 (2016), (by July 2018, 17-year-olds charged with nonviolent offenses will be treated as juveniles; by July 2020 all 17-year-olds will be treated as juveniles); South Carolina SB 916 (2016), (by July 2019 all 17-year-olds will be treated as juveniles unless a required study finds that more money is required for implementation); and Vermont H 95 (2016); and Vermont Department of Families and Children, “Governor Signs Law Creating More Rational Juvenile Justice Policies in Vermont,” press release (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Department of Families and Children, June 1, 2016).
The remaining states that currently set the age at 17—Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin—had bills pending to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the most recent legislative session, though Missouri’s died in committee.Justice Policy Institute, Raise the Age: Shifting to a Safer and More Effective Juvenile Justice System (Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute, 2017), 16.
Some states have attempted to push the boundary for juvenile jurisdiction beyond 18: lawmakers in Connecticut and Massachusetts introduced bills in 2017 to raise the age to 21.For attempt to raise the age in Connecticut, see An Act Concerning Juvenile and Young Adult Justice, Governor’s Bill No. 7045, State of Connecticut General Assembly, January Session, 2017. For attempt to raise the age in Massachusetts, see An Act Promoting Transparency, Best Practices, and Better Outcomes for Children and Communities, Senate No. 947, 190th General Court (2017-2018) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (now Massachusetts SB 2170 (2017-2018) after a redraft in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary).
Though these reforms have not yet come to a final vote, Massachusetts could be the first state to raise the age above 18.Massachusetts HB 3078 (2017).
In October 2017, the Massachusetts Senate passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform package that would—among other reforms—raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 19. The House version did not include raising the age, and the discrepancy will be resolved in conference in 2018.Massachusetts HB 3037 (2017); and Citizens for Juvenile Justice, “Emerging Adult Justice Campaign,”