Lawmakers consider rolling back legislation to place 17-year-olds back in adult prisons

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 6:46 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Some lawmakers believe the key to reducing some crime is to reverse a Louisiana law that keeps 17-year-olds out of adult prisons.

With the spike in crime not only here at home but across the country, several lawmakers believe this proposal would help solve the problem. Others believe it will have the opposite effect. Sen. Stewart Cathy (R) wants to roll back Louisiana’s raise the age act, preventing 17-year-olds from being placed in adult prisons.

“Based on conversations with several law enforcement departments whether it be the Attorney General’s office, several DAs, sheriffs, we’ve identified that the big problem with the surge in crime has been because of the 17-year-olds,” said Sen. Cathy.

Peter Robins-Brown with Louisiana Progress opposes the idea. While acknowledging there is a crime problem, he does not believe sending teens to adult prisons is the answer.

“I think far too often we take a hammer and nail approach to violent crime issues instead of looking at the underlying issues that are causing these increases, especially among young people,” said Robins-Brown.

Sen. Cathy’s position argues that aside from crime, the juvenile detention centers are understaffed, underfunded, and overcrowded. But Robins-Brown says the adult prisons have those same issues.

“You know, you’re kind of exchanging one problem for the exact same problem on the other side,” added Robins-Brown.

“Well, I’ll tell you what we’re doing right now isn’t working and so anything that we can do that will have a positive impact I’m all for and I think this is one of those things that will have a positive impact,” Sen. Cathy continued.

Rachel Gassert with Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights argues Sen. Cathy’s bill would push the state backward.

“While Louisiana has, like every other part of the country, seen an increase in violence, there is no evidence 17-year-olds, in particular, have exhibited any increase in violence as compared to other age groups,” said Gassert.

“I mean, look, the studies that I’ve seen are the articles that I read in the paper where I’m seeing 17-year-olds continuously commit heinous crimes across the state,” Sen. Cathy added.

“What I would argue is that over-criminalization and over-penalization has kind of led to breaking apart the family structure in many cases, so what we’re talking about here is just perpetuating that cycle,” said Robins-Brown.

The bill is currently awaiting the full Senate’s approval. Should it get it this week, it will have fought half the battle before it becomes law.

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