The movement to return first-time, nonviolent 17-year-old offenders to the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system has picked up some serious momentum with a new bill with bi-partisan support. The bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Jerry Petrowski and State Representative Garey Bies and Democrat State Reps Fred Kessler and Sandy Pasch, is supported by the Wisconsin Second Chance Alliance including the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Churches and others.
It's estimated some two thousand 17-year-old offenders would be treated annually in the juvenile system and that comes with a cost. But getting these young people into juvenile treatment programs will improve the likelihood of graduating from high school, getting a job and being eligible for military service.
The vast majority of arrests of 17 years olds are for non-violent crimes. Let's not rob them of a chance to be contributing members of their communities.