The Texas House took a major step Thursday night toward walking back what many people feel is the 'overcriminalization' of the high crime 1990s, when Texas approved a law allowing 17 year olds to stand trial in adult courts, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
On a narrow vote last night, the House approved a measure from State Rep Gene Woo (D-Houston) that would set 18 as the minimum age of adult prosecution for all offenses.
"17 year olds who are treated in the juvenile system like ours are more than one third less likely to ever commit another crime in their life," Woo said.
One concern about the bill is the higher costs of keeping all 17 year olds in juvenile court, where it costs $366 a day to house prisoners, and only $50 to house adult prisoners.
Texans, sick and tired of violent teen criminal gangs, allowed 17 year olds to be 'bound over' to adult court to stand trial there, where punishments are far greater.
But State Rep Harold Dutton (D-Houston) says trying kids as adults doesn't make sense."Texas ought to be concerned about a better outcome for 17 year olds, and the only way to achieve that is to keep the 17 year olds in the juvenile justice system.
"Among those praising the bill was Cathy DeWitt of the Texas Association of Business.
“The Texas House today took a big step to improve our justice system by passing raise-the-age legislation. Approving House Bill 122 is the right thing to do to ensure that 17-year-olds are not automatically put into the adult criminal justice system. Putting them in that system reduces the chance that they will be able to be successfully rehabilitated and become productive adults. We would encourage the Texas Senate to take a good look at this bill when it arrives in that chamber and realize that this is the best thing we can do to help juvenile offenders.”
This bill would not affect what is called 'determinate sentencing.' That is when a person commits a crime as a juvenile and then is sentenced to prison, where a judge when the individual reaches the age of 18 determines whether that person should continue the sentence in adult court.
The measure also allows 17 year olds charged with the most heinous crimes to stand trial in adult court.