A bill to charge 17-year-olds as juveniles nears final legislative passage. Director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights Joshua Perry says including 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system makes for safer communities and more successful children.

“When we respond to youthful offending in the juvenile justice system, we make it more likely that kids will finish high school, get good jobs, and avoid reoffending.”

Raising the age is a key part of Governor Edwards’ legislative agenda. Perry says 17-year-olds can’t join the army, buy lottery tickets, or buy cigarettes because we know they are more immature and more susceptible to change than adults. He says in many important ways 17-year-olds are still children.

“So when they break the law, we do need to hold them accountable but we should hold them accountable in the justice system that is designed to respond to children.”

The legislation passed the House 97 to 3 and heads back to the Senate for approval on minor changes. Perry says there has been a huge coalition behind this bill. He says it’s good policy and it’s common sense policy.

“It really fits with what we know about who we were when we were 17, what we want for our children if they make bad decisions and bad mistakes.”