Raise the Age Legislation Gets a Public Hearing in Wisconsin

MacIver News Service | November 4, 2013

UPDATE:

The Assembly Committee on Corrections passed AB387 unanimously on November 4th.

Original Post on October 3, 2013 at 12:28PM:

[Madison, Wisc…] The Assembly Committee on Corrections held a public hearing on Thursday to discuss legislation that will raise the age from 17 to 18 at which an individual can be prosecuted as an adult for committing a crime.

Assembly Bill 387, introduced by Rep. Gary Bies (R-Sister Bay), is a bipartisan bill that would make non-violent 17 year olds without a criminal record subject to the procedures specified in the Juvenile Justice Code. However, a 17 year old that has committed a crime or been charged with a violent crime in the past would still be considered an adult.

Wisconsin is currently one of ten states that treat all 17 year olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Massachusetts recently became the 40th state to pass raise the age legislation.

Bies told the committee that the main goal of the bill is to give “young adults a second chance to be productive members of society.”

The Sister Bay Republican said in his testimony that half of Wisconsin counties are already implementing cost-effective, evidence based programming for young offenders, which have had better outcomes than sending these individuals to an adult prison.

Patrick Fiedler, President of the Wisconsin State Bar Association, said they support of AB 387. The Bar Association believes this will improve the criminal justice system because non-violent youth offenders are less likely to reoffend if they participate in the juvenile system, instead of the adult system.

According to statistics, 98 percent of youth offenders are non-violent. “This is an opportunity for the State of Wisconsin to be smart of crime,” Fiedler told the committee.

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) spoke at the hearing in support of the bill, as well. Goyke said that neighborhoods in his district face levels of crime that can be as high as five times the state average and this bill will move towards reducing that number.

“Assembly Bill 387 offers an opportunity to implement a policy that will reduce recidivism among youthful offenders,” Goyke told the committee. “It will actually reduce crime.”

A total of 54 legislators from both parties have signed on as sponsors of the bill.