The Raise the Age Act passed in 2016 goes into effect Friday, which means 17-year-olds will no longer be criminally charged as adults for non-violent offenses. Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights says the act is a big win, as the juvenile justice program has a lower rate for recidivism. And Policy Director Rachel Gassert says in most cases you are not considered an adult until you turn 18.

“That’s when we believe that adulthood officially begins, so to draw that like at 17 on this one particular thing didn’t make a lot of sense,” said Gassert.

Gassert said the juvenile system has special procedures for children, and one of the big advantages is that the parents become part of the process.

“They get arrested and taken to jail, the system has no obligation to call their parents and inform them they have been arrested because according to the law they are an adult.  While in the juvenile system, the parent is part of the process,” said Gassert.

Often the juvenile justice system faces challenges as it relates to capacity limits.  But Gassert said the system has been making changes that prepare for this change.  She adds that alternatives should be used for pretrial detention to free up space.

“What we are really looking for is to make sure the kid is staying out of trouble while his case is pending and that he’s showing up in court, and community-based alternatives can work really well to achieve those goals,” said Gassert.

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