Raising the Age, Lowering the Crime

Effective October 1, 2018, the Raise the Age law took effect in New York. What does it mean to “raise the age”? New York no longer automatically charges all 16-year-olds as adults. Why is New York raising the age? Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that youth incarcerated in adult facilities are not only more likely to suffer abuse but they are also more likely to recidivate. By raising the age, New York is lowering the crime rate.

Why did New York “raise the age”? The results in other states indicate success. Studies by the Connecticut Juvenile Jurisdiction Planning and Implementation Committee show that young people prosecuted as adults are likely to reoffend. Young adults in stricter facilities are also at an increased risk for suicide. Raising the age for young adults to be prosecuted in family court instead of being tried as adult, may decrease the number of reoffenses.

In 45 states, 17 years old is the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin are the only states that draw the juvenile/adult line at age 16. Since 2007, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and South Carolina passed laws to raise the age so that the majority of young people who are arrested will be served by the juvenile justice system. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), between 2005 and 2015 juvenile crime fell in Connecticut, Illinois, and Massachusetts, and in the United States in general: the federal violent crime index fell 29% and property crime rates fell by 42%.

Connecticut “raised the age” in 2012. The program began implementation in 2010, first raising the age to 16. Youth crime rates dropped, which allowed the state to close one of its three juvenile detention centers. The state then raised the age from 16 to 17. After the Raise the Age implementation, the state’s spending its juvenile justice system decreased because Raise the Age was accompanied by a shift to community-based programming. However, Connecticut is still trying to work through some of the unintended consequences. For instance, the law initially allowed most youth motor vehicle matters to be tried as adult cases. However, after police officers found this confusing, the law was amended so that any offense that simply involved a fine went to adult court. If jail time was a possibility, 16- and 17-year-olds were transferred back to juvenile court. Cases that began in adult court remained in adult court. For instance, a probation violation on an adult charge remained in adult court. While there was some push back in Connecticut about raising the age, overall, raise the age has been a success.


For more information on the impact of Raise in the Age in Connecticut, visit: http://www.raisetheagect.org/index.html.