Photo Credit: WCLK The Local Take - Kiplyn Primus
Throughout the United States, unless emancipated,
You must be 18 to age-out of state custody (foster care).
You must be 18 to enter college without parental consent.
You must be 18 to be “independent” to declare financial aid for college or provide evidence that you are no longer subject to parental support.
You must be 18 or older to be released of parental child support.
You must be 18 to vote.
You must be 18 to join the military.
You must be 18 to drive without restrictions, curfew or parental/adult supervision.
You must be 18 to enter into contract.
You must be 18 to marry or seek medical services without parental/adult permission.
You must be 21 to legally smoke and purchase cigarettes.
You must be 21 to legally buy alcohol and drink.
However, in Georgia, 17 year old children will AUTOMATICALLY be prosecuted as adults .
About Raise the Age Georgia: #RaisetheAgeGA
Since 2005, Sherri Jefferson has advocated to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17 so that children under the age of 18 are not prosecuted as adults.
Her goal is to ultimately raise the age of jurisdiction to 21 because that is the legal age to drink and smoke, but she recognizes the legal ramifications of doing so.
Her research for the AAJJP Juvenile Justice Reform began in 2005 and she continues to produce reports: 2007, 2012, and 2017. The reports also consists of data and information regarding raising the age to 18 - see pages 32-34.
Since 2007, Jefferson has reached out to politicians, foundations, organizations, and NGOs. Most of Georgia's 'children' advocates have opposed raising the age for more than a decade.
From 2007 - 2008, Jefferson also reached out to Representative Mary M. Oliver, JustGA, Georgia Voices, Emory Law School Barton Clinic, ACLU, and the State Bar of Georgia Juvenile Law Committee and others.
Impact of #RaisetheAgeGA on All Children
Aligned with the mission of the African American Juvenile Justice Project and FemaleNOTFeemale, she has witnessed first hand the devastating impact of all children prosecuted for youthful offenses.
Many of these children are subjected to incarceration in adult jails waiting bail or trial.
Many of these youth are housed with violent offenders. In some jurisdictions, these accused offenders are housed with other 17 year old violent offenders to prevent them from being subject to rape by adult inmates 18 and older.
Georgia is one of the few states that subjects 17 year old children to adult prosecution - AUTOMATICALLY.
Georgia is also one of a few states in America that only requires mandatory school attendance until the age of 16 under Code section 20-2-690, et seq. These cracks in the system creates an environment of criminality because there is a correlation between education and incarceration.
Where Do We Go From Here?
House Bill 53 was introduced to Raise the Age in Georgia. The legislation failed because the Bill was not promoted publicly, and there were no public hearings or engagement of community shareholders or stakeholders. These are the critical elements needed to support legislation.
The Journey to #RaisetheAgeGA from the Supreme Court of the United States
Aside from research, Sherri Jefferson relies on the logical approach to raise the age. It is understood that 16 - 17 year old youth, especially males, are mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically undeveloped. To this end, they are not fully aware of their life choices or the collateral consequences associated with their decisions.
For such reasons, the Supreme Court of the United States relied upon developmental research in their decision in Roper v. Simmons (2005), when they ruled against the execution of youth accused of murder; in Graham v. Florida (2010) the Court held that juveniles could not be sentenced to life; in Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Court examined the unconstitutionality of life without parole for juveniles; and, they examined retroactivty in Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016).
Avoiding Mistakes of Our Past
It is profitable - from bail to probation to sentencing - to subject the most vulnerable population to criminal prosecution because they are more likely to re-offend and become repeated offenders, which drives the cash for bail, privatization of the prison industrial complex, and private probation systems.
Records adversely impact the ability to attain HEMS (housing, healthcare, education, employment, maintenance and support). Individuals subject to arrest before their 21st birthday are more likely to re-offend - not because they want to, but because their HEMS are so adversely impacted that they cause youth to resolve to a life of crime to survive.
In the United States, a person 18 years old or older can create millions of dollars in debt. Based upon refusal or inability to pay their debt, their credit report will reflect a poor/negative rating, which prevents them from getting employment, housing, credit or a vehicle.
They can file for bankruptcy for immediate relief of their negative credit or after seven-ten years, their negative credit will AUTOMATICALLY be removed from their credit report under federal law - Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The very same person could get arrested (with or without conviction) and his/her criminal record will follow them the rest of their life.
Since 2007. Sherri Jefferson has and continues to advocate for federal and state laws, which will DELETE records, not restrict/expunge or merely seal them. Under a Fair Criminal Records Reporting Act a misdemeanor record should be dismissed within 2-5 years after completion of a sentence if there are no new offenses; if a felony, then the record should be deleted within 7-10 years.
These minimums are based upon federal and state statute of limitations. If the offenses are the Seven (7) deadly sins, then their records should not be subjected to deletion, but they should qualify for a sealed record within 10 years from the last date of their sentence, but only if they have not re-offended.
#RaisetheAgeGA and give children a fair chance!
In addition to data collected and researched by AAJJP, here are other research tools, which served as a guide for the RaisetheAgeNY project:
Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System: Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 30, 2007,
National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems. The Fourth Wave: Juvenile Justice Reforms for the Twenty-first Century; p. 20,
Fagen, J., Forst, M. Vivona, T.S. ”Youth in Prisons and Training Schools: Perceptions and Consequences of the Treatment-Custody Dichotomy”, Juvenile and Family Court Journal, No.2, 1989.
National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, Report 18, June 2009,
Ian. Growing up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons across the United States. New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union, 2012,
Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America”, Campaign for Youth Justice, November 2007