Wisconsin Organizations Unite to Support Juvenile Justice Legislation

MacIver News Service | March 14, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] The Wisconsin 2nd Chance Alliance has come together recently to show support for legislation that would raise the age for a non-violent offender to be prosecuted as an adult from 17 to 18 years old.

The bipartisan bill 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.

During the Assembly Committee on Corrections public hearing, Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) said the main goal of the bill is to give “young adults a second chance to be productive members of society.”

That is exactly what the 2nd Chance Alliance is hoping for. Made up of Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Association of Family and Children’s Agencies, the State Public Defender, and others, the Alliance urged the legislature to pass the bill.

The Alliance countered claims that the bill would increase costs for the state and counties in its letter to the Assembly and Senate.

“All available research and experience points to a net fiscal benefit to the state in terms of reduced justice system costs and the positive economic impact of getting youthful offenders back on the right track,” the letter reads. “The National Council on Crime and Delinquency has projected that simply a 1% decrease in crime would result in a $10.6 million increase in Wisconsin’s Gross Domestic Product each year.”

The letter also highlights a report from the MacIver Institute that shows individuals that are processed through the juvenile system are much less likely to reoffend.

Taking a sample of 900 youth arrested between 1993 and 1995 [in a Florida study conducted in 2002], researchers created 475 pairs matched by demographic characteristics and elements of the crime. In each pair, one of the juveniles had been transferred to the adult criminal court while the other was adjudicated in the juvenile court. In nearly 29 percent of the matched pair, only the youth transferred to the adult criminal court reoffended, compared to the 14.7 percent of pairs in which only the offender tried before the juvenile court reoffended.

Amongst the pairs in which both juveniles reoffended, the youth transferred to the adult criminal court were likely to have committed a more serious felony than the youth processed in the juvenile court. Further, those youth processed as adults were 15 percent more likely to reoffend in adulthood. In Minnesota, an outcome study of the waiver process has shown that youths who were tried as adults were 16 percent more likely to be recidivate than those tried in the juvenile court system.

The 2nd Chance Alliance aims to help in any way it can to “craft a solution that protects county budgets, favors Wisconsin taxpayers, and delivers the opportunity for a much better future for Wisconsin kids.”

Read the full letter here.