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As I See It

Return 17-year-olds to juvenile court

Scott Robert Shaw

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Wisconsin continues to struggle with how to properly deal with young lawbreakers. One step lawmakers could take is to bring 17 year-olds who run afoul of the law back into the juvenile justice system. As more and more states work to instill justice in their legal system by sending teenagers to juvenile court, Wisconsin has become an outlier.  Currently, Wisconsin is just one of three states which automatically process all 17-year-old accused criminals in adult court. There is a reason 47 other states have made this change. 17-year-olds are not of legal age and shouldn’t be automatically treated as adults in the eye of the courts. Doing away with the law created during the “get tough on crime” era of the 1990s would, according to statistics, reduce the recidivism rate and allow for more treatment options. It would help address injustices and disparities in the state’s criminal justice system. And if the crime is serious enough, courts would still have the option of moving a 17-year-old to adult court, it just wouldn’t happen automatically. Let the judges decide based on the merits of the case. Wisconsin should join the large majority of states and process teenage lawbreakers in juvenile court, where they belong.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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