#RaiseTheAgeGA - The African American Juvenile Justice Project Supports HB440 Raise The Age Georgia

Raise The Age Georgia #RaiseTheAgeGA

Date: February 17, 2020

To: Representative Efstration, Chairman and Members of the Judiciary Committee; Representative Mandi Ballinger, Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee

From: The African American Juvenile Justice Project #RaiseTheAgeGA

Re: Raise the Age Georgia [www.RaiseTheAgeGA.com and www.AAJJP.com]

On behalf of the African American Juvenile Justice Project, we commend your efforts to Raise the Age of jurisdiction.

AAJJP remains steadfast and committed to the Raise the Age Georgia campaign because of the impact upon juvenile delinquency and deprivation in our community. Being aware, in 2005 we began a national initiative in this space. By 2007, we shared our research with Georgia and worked with national organizations to mobilize across this country to raise the age of jurisdiction. By 2012, we released additional research and also presented before members of the Georgia General Assembly our report with proposed legislation to raise the age as part of HB641 under the Juvenile Justice Code Rewrite.

Throughout the years, we have remained steadfast in this space, including presenting before the committee on both HB341 (2017) and HB 234 (2019) about adding a provision to raise the age of jurisdiction. We continue our efforts regarding HB440, which is still pending, and we seek passage of this legislation.

Notwithstanding, several years ago we started the www.RaiseTheAgeGA.com website in partnership with the African American Juvenile Justice Project and have engaged in community outreach including a social media campaign #RaiseTheAgeGA. Over the years, our public forums include town hall meetings, media presentation, and public appearances i.e., local churches, 91.9 WCLK radio program The Local Take “#RaiseTheAgeGA”, and appearance on the panel for Restorative Justice at the National Center for Civic and Human Rights, etc.

Moving Forward

Raising the age of criminal responsibility is not simply the right thing to do, it is a necessary thing to do. Today, Georgia remains one of three states undecided. Without reiterating white paper regarding psychological, mental, emotional, and physiological development in youth and its impact upon their ability to make sound judgment or understand the collateral consequences, our presentment on this topic is simple, throughout the United States, unless emancipated,

  1. You must be 18 to age-out of state custody (foster care).

  2. You must be 18 to enter college without parental consent.

  3. 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.

  4. You must be 18 or older to be released of parental child support.

  5. You must be 18 to vote.

  6. You must be 18 to join the military.

  7. You must be 18 to drive without restrictions, curfew or parental/adult supervision.

  8. You must be 18 to enter into contract.

  9. [1]You must be 18 to marry or seek medical services without parental/adult permission.

  10. You must be 21[2] to legally smoke and purchase cigarettes.

  11. You be 21 to legally buy alcohol and drink.

Today, at least 47 states have ‘raised the age’ of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17; most juvenile courts maintain jurisdiction of youth until the age of 21 if the youth is under a court order for deprivation or delinquency or is imprisoned based upon an order issued by the juvenile court.

Nevertheless, AAJJP recognizes the importance of enactment of legislation that will raise the age and seek a ‘grandfather’ provision for youth waiting to be tried or who are facing criminal prosecution.

Research proves that most 17-year-old inmates are non-violent offenders subject to arrest for underage drinking, driving without a license, possession of marijuana less than an ounce, or simple battery for a fight at school. Arrest as an adult grossly impedes their ability to have a productive life. The state of Georgia no longer has an automatic “expungement” of records. The new law authorizes all records subject to seal to be at the sole discretion of the prosecutor/district attorney.

Georgia must enact legislation that will prevent children from being subject to arrest as an adult and remove barriers that permit rehabilitation and reform[3].

Therefore, AAJJP hopes that this committee will work diligently to pass HB440 and Raise The Age!

[1] Unless emancipated

[2] Throughout most jurisdiction you must be at least 21 years of age, but not less than 18.

[3] Under the adult system, police were limited to two options: Arrest a suspect and send them to court or don’t arrest and send them home. But the Illinois law meant greater leeway for handling 17-year-olds. Because they now are automatically treated as juveniles, police can send them to counseling, make them do community service, or simply make them write a letter of apology. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/05/31/how-raise-the-age-laws-might-reduce-recidivism

As a result of the law and other programs focused on rehabilitating troubled teens, the number of youth in the juvenile prison population has dropped from 1,195 to under 400 today, according to a Juvenile Justice Initiative analysis of Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice data.

A 2011 Vera Institute study found that if North Carolina raised the age to 18, the state would save $52.3 million a year.

After Connecticut passed its “raise the age” law in 2007, the state ended up spending slightly less on its juvenile justice system than it did before the age was raised, according to the Justice Policy Institute.