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Will Texas 'Raise The Age' Of Criminal Responsibility?

© Steve Liss https://osf.to/2pY6OjR
Young inmates march through the prison yard at dawn. After waking up at 4:45 a.m., they begin each day with an hour of physical activity.

The cutoff for criminal responsibility in Texas was increased to age 17 in the year 1918. Before that, 9-year-olds could be prosecuted as adults.

Texas is one of seven states that still treats 17-year-old offenders as adults in the justice system. Last week, the Texas House passed a bill that would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old beginning in 2021, but the fate of its Senate companion is uncertain. 

Critics' main concerns are cost, safety and the risk of overcrowding facilities. If an adult crime is committed, adult time should be served. 

Advocates say "raise the age" legislation would give 17-year-olds one last shot at rehabilitation. Offenders receive more treatment and educational services as juveniles than in adult detention facilities. Raising the age could reduce recidivism, they argue, and the costs of implementation are exaggerated. 

Should Texas move thousands of 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and into the juvenile justice system? 


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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.