Texas currently prosecutes 17-year-old offenders in the adult criminal court and houses them in adult correctional facilities. Evidence has shown, however, that the juvenile justice system is the most effective venue to punish youthful offenders. Youth processed through the adult criminal justice system regularly exhibit higher recidivism rates compared to similarly situated youth placed in the juvenile system. Raising the age of the juvenile court jurisdiction in Texas from 17 to 18 would, by default, place 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system, improving public safety by lowering re-offending rates among these youth (MacIver Institute).
“Raising the age” would not mitigate punishment for youthful offenders nor would it limit judicial discretion. Juveniles aged 14 and older who commit felonies may still be transferred to adult criminal court under the process known as “certification.” Placing 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system would ensure they are punished in the most appropriate venue, providing better protection to youth while producing better results for Texans.
Implementing “raise the age” reform in Texas would require up-front costs. While violent, high-risk offenders can be placed in the adult system, the juvenile system provides the most effective tools to punish and rehabilitate most youthful offenders, thereby improving public safety for Texans.