A bill signing ceremony to include 17-year-olds in the Juvenile Justice System takes place today.

The Policy Director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Rachel Gassert, says this law brings Louisiana in line with 41 other states that currently set the age of criminal responsibility at 18. She says 17-year-olds are not adults and shouldn’t be treated as such for even minor offenses.

“This legislation will change that, bringing 17-year-olds into the Juvenile Justice System where they will receive age appropriate interventions and rehabilitation to reduce recidivism.”

Gassert says this will improve public safety because the recidivism rates in the Juvenile Justice System are far better than those in the adult system.

“Research from the Center for Disease Control has shown that youth who are prosecuted as adults are 34% more likely to recidivate than comparable youths who are prosecuted in the juvenile system.”

Gassert anticipates more criminal justice reform laws to be enacted during Governor John Bel Edwards’ time in office. She says the raise the age law is a first good step.

“We applaud our legislators for making the right choice to improve how kids are treated in this state and make the right steps towards public safety.”