Attorney General opposes changing how 17-year-olds are tried in courtA bill to change how 17-year-olds are treated when they commit crimes is facing strong opposition from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
By: Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A bill to change how 17-year-olds are treated when they commit crimes is facing strong opposition from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
County governments also oppose the change calling it an unfunded mandate.
Wisconsin is one of only 10 states that still treats 17-year-old offenders as adults. The proposed change would affect only 17-year-olds who are first time nonviolent offenders. Milwaukee state Rep. Gary Goyke says the change will save money in the long run by keeping young offenders out of the adult system, where studies show they're more likely to become habitual criminals.
“We have to give the very best and most effective options for that young person so that they don't become career criminals, they don't become more statistics, and so we are not stuck paying for them or paying for their prison cell for the rest of their life,” says Goyke.
County human services officials say they support the policy of treating 17-year-olds as juveniles as long as the state picks up the estimated $10 million in increased costs to house and treat those teens who now wind up in county jails or state prisons.
“If the true purpose of this legislation is to provide treatment and services to 17-year-old offenders, then it only makes sense to provide the funding needed to offer such treatment and services,” says Sarah Diedrick-Kasdorf, a lobbyist for the counties association.
The attorney general's office argues judges already have the option to divert 17-year-olds to drug courts and treatment programs that cost tax payers less and also keep the teenager out of adult prisons. Van Hollen also says crime victims will have less chance of getting compensation for the crimes 17-year-olds commit if they're no longer treated as adults.