Guess which state may be taking a huge leap forward for criminal justice reform in the near future?
The state’s democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, has proposed changing the minimum age to be tried in court as an adult to 21. In just about every state, the age is currently 18, according to Gawker.
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If things go according to plan, Connecticut would be the first state to keep young adults age 18-20 in the juvenile system, allowing them shorter sentences and a better opportunity for rehabilitation.
It gets even better... Malloy’s proposal would also make it easier for “low-risk” offenders between the ages of 21 and 25 to have their criminal records expunged or sealed.
"Is it right that a 17-year-old can have a second chance, but a 22-year-old should not?" Malloy asked during a symposium last month at the University Of Connecticut School Of Law.
Malloy’s administration is reportedly preparing a formal policy recommendation to present to lawmakers in February.
The foundation for this proposal actually has a lot to do with science and the fact that the prefrontal cortex — which is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision making — isn’t fully developed until the age of 25.
Based on that fact, you don’t have a full understanding of right vs. wrong before you reach 25 years old and therefore shouldn’t face the same fate as someone who does.
Those who have expressed support for Malloy’s plan recognize that being 18, 19, or 20 years old in today’s society is much different than it was over a century ago when the age of adult prosecution was set at 18.
Furthermore, by having more lax sentences and access to the education and mental health services offered in the juvenile justice system, young offenders can better transition back into society after serving their time.
Those who are skeptical of the proposed change are concerned about the mixed message it sends when society can allow 18-to-20-year-olds to vote and serve in the military and 21-year-olds to do all of the above and legally drink alcohol, but treat them as juveniles in the eyes of the criminal justice system.
Both sides have valid points that will likely be thoroughly discussed once the official proposal has been made.
Ultimately, if the goal is to cut down on the overcrowding of prisons, reduce repeat offenses, and lower the overall U.S. incarceration rate — which is entirely too high — then this is a reasonable step toward achieving that.
Banner Photo Credit: Flickr / Governor Connecticut Inauguration