Missouri lawmakers allocate money to end delay of ‘Raise the Age’ law for juvenile courts

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 11:32 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri lawmakers believe they have fixed a delay in the criminal justice system to allow 17-year-olds to be treated as juveniles instead of adults.

Court administrators struggled with the Raise the Age law because of a lack of funding in place to give juvenile systems across the state the added resources needed. It led to a delay. Missouri’s lawmakers this past session approved a funding mechanism.

Most juvenile offices, including in Greene County, did not make any changes, because they say the law needed funding to give them jurisdiction. The Juvenile Justice Preservation Fund accumulated different fines and costs across the state, since the law passed. Now, the legislature has allocated budget funding to add to what had accumulated in that fund. The funds will now be distributed to each county’s circuit court, instead of the state treasury.

Greene County’s Chief Juvenile Officer, Bill Prince, says when Governor Parson signs the bill, if he does, it would resolve the issues. He says the legislation has an emergency clause, so it goes into effect the date the governor signs it.

“We’re ready to start handling these kids right now,” said Prince. “But again, we would want to notify law enforcement and that kind of thing, saying hey, beginning June 1st or whenever, start sending your reports and bringing kids here who are 17.”

Prince says the Greene County Juvenile Courts system should get additional funding according to a state formula, likely around $250,000 a year, to implement Raise the Age law. The newly passed legislation also clarifies any crime committed by a 17-year-old before the date the law is signed would still be considered an adult offense.

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