By Lex Talamo | The Shreveport Times

A bill that aims to raise the age of prosecuting an individual as an adult is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.

SB 324, proposed by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, on Sunday passed through the Senateby a vote of 33-4.

The bill passed through the House June 2 with a vote of 97-3, which sent it back to the Senate for concurrence.

It now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards for a signature.

If signed, SB 324 would effectively raise the age for which individuals are prosecuted as adults — for any crime — from 17 to 18 years old.

Louisiana is only one of nine states in the nation that prosecutes 17 year olds as adults.

Josh Perry, executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, said staff are thrilled that the Raise the Age Act is ready for the governor’s signature.

“We salute all of the legislators who chose a brighter future for our children and our state through smart juvenile justice reform,” Perry wrote in an email. “Raising the age will mean safer and more prosperous communities and healthier, happier, more successful children.”

Perry said 17-year-olds who are held accountable through the juvenile justice system, rather than housed in adult facilities are more likely to finish school and become employed and are also less likely to re-offend.

Data from a Campaign for Youth Justice report states that teens with an adult criminal record have a harder time finding jobs and apartments and may also be denied higher education opportunities.

Children housed in adult facilities are also at much higher risk of experiencing sexual abuse and beatings and are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their counterparts housed in juvenile facilities, according.

Data from the reprot also shows that most teenagers sentenced to adult facilities will be back in their communities within 10 years, after having experienced further trauma and having been exposed to adult criminal behaviors.

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